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Sea of Blue, Orange cheer Hounds into final

By Reece Waddell | Published Friday, March 8, 2019
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Slidell fans wasted little time filling their section of the Alamodome Thursday morning.

Two hours before tipoff, a steady stream of orange and blue shirts began taking their seats to see their Greyhounds play in the state semifinal for the first time in 75 years.

“Basketball to us is really important here,” said Slidell junior Ema Howerton. “In this town, it just brings people together and gives us something to get excited about. That’s why this state game is so important.”

The school district canceled classes Thursday and Friday and released students early Wednesday to travel to San Antonio.

Slidell ISD trustee Kim Dunlap has been a Greyhound fan since 1984.

“There are no words to describe it,” Dunlap said. “It’s like a beehive at the school with people throwing money for T-shirts. When you’re a small rural community, we have our church and we have our school. The school is the center of what goes on the in the community. It’s the hub. It’s the love of basketball. That’s our big thing.”

Slidell fans cheer on their team during the Class A semifinal against Oakwood Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. (Ron Cortes/ Special Contributor)

For a school that has not won a championship since Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office, the first five rounds of the playoffs were not without drama.

Last weekend, Slidell dethroned two-time defending champion Lipan to claim the Region III title. In the region quarterfinal, the Greyhounds needed three Easton Vanover free throws in the waning moments to escape with the victory.

“Some of us parents felt like since they were little this could be a pretty good group depending on how everything goes,” said Karen Vanover, mother of sophomore Easton and senior Brady and a Slidell teacher. “It seems like everybody has come out of the woodwork and is following us. It’s amazing.”

Fans from neighboring Decatur made the trip to San Antonio early to cheer on Slidell. Decatur senior Savannah Donahue said she would also be at the Eagles’ 4A semifinal Friday afternoon.

Slidell’s Hunter Horner scores two during Thursday’s semifinal. (Ron Cortes/ Special Contributor)

“Slidell has a special spot in my heart,” Donahue said. “Seeing two Wise County teams make the state tournament in one year is definitely something special. This is something Slidell has fell short of the past couple of years and seeing them final achieve it is something I wouldn’t miss.

“Basketball in Slidell is a religion. Everyone plays basketball and always has since they could walk.”

After Slidell’s 47-45 win over Oakwood in the semifinal Thursday, the Greyhounds are now one win from the championship that has eluded them for the better part of seven decades.

“Basketball up here isn’t just a sport to most of us, it’s a lifestyle that we live by,” said Slidell sophomore Jayden Ellison. “We breath basketball like it’s a passion. It’s always awesome to see an underdog come out on top, especially when it’s our boys.”

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