Old-school Hornets thrive on defense
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: East Central, Highlands, South San, Southwest.
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East Central likes the view from where it’s standing.
The Hornets (8-5), who finished third in the SAISD Tournament Saturday, have been non-traditional in recent seasons. In short, they’ve had some height.
This year’s model will look familiar to old-school East Central fans. The vertically challenged Hornets are a throwback to the running, full-court pressing, half-court harassing style that the school’s storied tradition was built upon.
“This team plays together,” East Central coach Jeff Sweet said. “They have a lot of energy offensively, but they feed off playing defense. I think they’re going to get better.”
East Central turned on the jets after MacArthur closed within five points in the third-place game at the Alamo Convocation Center. The Hornets finished the game on a 24-10 run for a 68-49 victory.
Senior Garrett White supplied 17 points and East Central forced nine turnovers in the final quarter. White and senior leader Brandon Keno each scored 20.
Keno, at 6-foot-2, is one of the tallest Hornets as well as the lone returning 2013-14 starter. He’s one of eight seniors on the roster.
“We lost four guys (to graduation),” Sweet said. “But we’ve got a lot of guys for whom it’s their senior year and they’ve waited their turn. They were ready to step up and play.”
East Central reached the semifinals with a 76-54 win over Littleton (Colo.) Heritage and a 72-65 victory over Holmes Friday. The Hornets lost 69-58 to runner-up Clark in the semis Saturday.
In the third-place game, MacArthur’s Jonathan Martin began the second half with a go-ahead layup. The Brahmas were within 44-41 at the 5:46 mark of the fourth quarter. White responded with three consecutive baskets and a pair of free throws, stretching East Central’s lead to 52-43.
The Hornets’ District 28-6A rival, South San (10-3), reached the consolation finals in the three-day tournament, which began Thursday. The Bobcats dropped a 55-49 overtime heartbreaker to Wagner in the bracket championship game.
South San established a 12-9 lead in the first quarter, as senior post Andre Flores scored eight points.
A layup from senior point guard Olando Lopez gave the Bobcats a 19-15 lead with 4:01 until halftime. South San, which struggled with turnovers, went scoreless for the next nine minutes and 21 seconds.
South San battled back to lead most of the fourth quarter. A three-pointer by Art Rangel made it 43-42 with 31.8 seconds left in regulation, but Wagner managed a tying free throw and took the lead with a six-point spurt in overtime.
“(Wagner) has a very talented basketball team,” South San coach Ray Carroll said. “They deserved to win that game.
“We went nearly 10 minutes without a basket. I don’t know too many teams that can win that way.”
The other area entrants were Highlands (5-10) and Southwest (5-6). Highlands edged St. Anthony 62-60 in its tournament opener, but wasn’t able to muster another win. The Dragons began with a 58-51 loss to eventual champion Brandeis, but weren’t able to claim a win.
Southwest led Smithson Valley 25-23 early in the third quarter. The Dragons inched ahead again on a three-point shot from four-year veteran Aaron Embry, a scoop shot off a steal from Jovani Oranday and a free throw from freshman D’Andre Griffin.
Embry hit a fadeaway jumper in the closing seconds of the quarter for a 38-37 advantage. Smithson Valley answered with an 18-2 run and won 58-42.
“We have to be more consistent,” first-year Southwest coach Lance Linscomb said. “We played Brandeis within seven, but we have all the markings of a young team. We have to keep improving and growing.”
MORE TO COME