Waddell column: Hounds’ title a tribute to unwavering support

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, March 9, 2019.
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Slidell waited a long time for this moment — 75 years, to be exact.

Despite numerous district titles and deep playoff runs, the Greyhounds always fell short for one reason or another.

“I don’t know that I have ever seen a situation around high school athletics where so many wanted it so badly — painstakingly,” said Slidell coach Casey Pierce. “They felt like they could never get over the hump.”

Reece Waddell

No more.

Slidell put an end to its championship drought in emphatic fashion Saturday in San Antonio, dominating from start to finish against the Jayton Jaybirds. Perhaps fittingly, it was junior Slayton Pruett, whose grandfather was on the 1964 team that fell one game shy of reaching the state tournament, that led the way.

The 6-6 post finished with a 10-point, 21-rebound double-double, earning MVP honors. He was one rebound away from the record for rebounds in a state tournament game.

“[My grandfather] was crying and I’ve never seen that man cry before,” Pruett said. “It paid off. We’ve been working hard since junior high. This is something we’ve dreamed of. All the long nights, weights, running, it may have not been fun, but it paid off.”

At a school where an old rock gym from the Work Projects Administration still stands filled with reminders of past successes, Saturday’s championship was a culmination of seven decades of trial, error, sweat and tears.

Slidell’s Hunter Horner #11 celebrates with Slidell’s Brock Harwell #00 after Slidell defeated Jayton for 1A championship. UIL boys basketball 1A State Final between Slidell v Jayton on Saturday March 9, 2019 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. (Ron Cortes/ Special Contributor)

“It’s a testament and a monument to the culture that we are,” Pierce said. “Basketball still is king in Slidell. All those who have come before us and those who will come after us, it’s something for them to look at, just like we’ve looked at banners from the 40s and 50s.

“I think it re-lights the fire in our community, and some who have gone through so much heartache of being there but not being able to get over the hump, this takes us from the service road onto the highway now.”

In a state where football is practically a religion, the Greyhound faithful will tell you their Friday night lights shine on the hardwood, not the gridiron.

“I’ve had so much outpouring of [support] from people who were strangers to me that played 20 or 30 years ago,” Pierce said. “I’m just thrilled for our community to be able to breathe a sigh of relief. The drought is over and those runs they made back in the ‘40s and ‘50s pretty consistently, we’re hoping to get back to that level to where we’re competing for [championships] consistently.”

Through all the agonizing defeats and shortcomings over the years, Slidell fans always turned out in droves to support their Greyhounds. That was no different this weekend, and as far as Pierce and the team is concerned, this title is for them.

“The support has been incredible,” Pierce said. “I don’t know if I have ever seen a buzzer go off, and typically the crowd is ecstatic, but so many of our fans, tears were being shed. It meant so much to them. I know our kids are going to enjoy it, but I hope the community enjoys it. It’s ours, but it’s theirs, too. We’re thrilled to death.”

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