SPORTS HEADLINES

Basketball: Texans take fans on wild ride

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, June 2, 2018
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Flying High

FLYING HIGH – Northwest senior Mason Hix celebrates after the Texans’ state semi-final victory over Alamo Heights. Photo courtesy Stephen Spillman

After having all but one team qualify for the playoffs during the 2016-2017 school year, Northwest had only two make the postseason this school year.

Football narrowly missed the postseason, going 6-4 and finishing fifth in District 6-5A. Volleyball went 17-15 overall but was fifth in district with a 6-8 mark. Girls basketball, girls soccer, softball and baseball also failed to qualify for the playoffs.

Boys basketball and boys soccer were the only two teams to make the postseason. Basketball made a run to the state tournament and narrowly lost in the 5A title game to Port Arthur Memorial in March. Soccer lost in the bi-district round to Wichita Falls.

“In terms of postseason results and number of teams that qualified for the playoffs, we didn’t have as many as we had the previous year,” Northwest Executive Athletic Director Joel Johnson said.

Baseball, which advanced to the regional quarterfinals in 2017, went 8-24 overall and finished 5-10 in district. The Texans had a chance in the final game of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs, but lost to second-place Azle 9-8.

“There was not a program at Northwest that was hit harder by graduation than Northwest baseball,” Johnson said. “Coach [John] Herrick was almost starting all over. Almost every kid on his varsity team this year had not been a varsity player last year.

“I was more than happy with the result and things Coach Herrick and that team did this year. No one thought they would be playing the last game of the year to get into the playoffs.”

Despite the down year, Johnson believes Northwest is trending in the right direction. He added all but two of the Texans’ coaches will be returning next year – something he believes is beneficial to the athletic program.

“The coaches that went two or three rounds in the playoffs last year still had the same expectation for this year’s teams,” Johnson said. “In turn, we’re going to have those coaches in place next year. They all have high expectations and they hold our kids accountable. It builds consistency.”

COACHING CHANGES:

The two departing coaches – golf coach Nathan Moses and wrestling coach Dan McCready – accepted positions at other schools. Moses took a job at Argyle. McCready is headed to Frisco Lebanon Trail.

Six wrestlers from McCready’s team advanced to the state tournament in February, with four of them returning with medals. Seniors Mike Kumlien and Andrena Carter won gold in their divisions.

Kumlien won the title for the second straight year after moving up to the 138-pound weight class. Carter won gold in the 165-pound girls division. Aiden Jean claimed silver in the boys 160-pound weight class while Madison Brown took bronze in the 102-pound girls division.

“He did a great job. We’re going to miss him,” said Johnson of McCready. “When he got here, that program was nothing. He is leaving this wrestling program in a much better place than when he got here.”

BEST TEAM:

Led by junior All-State guard Avery Anderson, Northwest returned to the state tournament for the second straight year. The Texans took fans on a wild ride, going undefeated through district play before falling in the state final with a 34-6 overall record.

Northwest led for most of the 5A championship game against Port Arthur, but late foul trouble cost them down the stretch in the 75-69 loss.

“They had a target on their back for [40] games,” Johnson said. “No one took them lightly. Everyone they played, they got that team’s best effort.”

Along with Anderson, Northwest also had 6-7 UT-Arlington signee Mason Hix in its lineup to go along with 6-10 Sammie Freeman, Oklahoma football signee Darrell Simpson and senior guard Jordan Keys.

The Texans had one of the highest scoring offenses in 5A, averaging 70.6 points per game. Northwest won 18 straight games leading up to the title game.

The Texans opened the season as the No. 1 ranked 5A team in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches poll. Hix, Simpson and Keys all graduated. Anderson will return in 2018 for his senior season. Freeman will be a junior next year.

“To be ranked as high as they were and knowing it would be a disappointment if they didn’t get [to state], it was one of the better coaching jobs that Coach [Mike] Hatch has done in his entire career,” Johnson said. “It was special. Everybody was happy to be a part of it and wanted to be along for the ride, including myself.

“For it to end, to be leading that thing for three-and-a-half quarters and to end up losing it at the end, it was heartbreaking.”

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