Cedar Park leaves Hurricanes one win from state repeat
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Sam Houston.
Sam Houston established itself as a second-half team this year.
Whether it was the second-half of the District 28-5A season or the post-halftime portion of games, the Hurricanes (16-14) were strongest under presssure – or when applying heat defensively. Sam Houston finally reached its limit of comeback performances March 7 in the Region IV championship game, one win short of a second-consecutive trip to the state finals.
With the absence of its customary post-halftime surge, Cedar Park (28-6) was able to hold off Sam Houston, When the Hurricanes made it a one- or two-possession game, the Timbervolves turned to sophomore post Keaton Hervey in the 53-41 win at Littleton Gym.
Hervey produced 19 of his 25 points in the second half.
Cedar Park were No. 24 in the final Texas Association of Basketball Coaches state rankings. Sam Houston was unranked, although it was No. 7 in the preseason poll.
“We started off 0-6 and 0-3 in district,” first-year Sam Houston coach Erik Coleman said. “The kids deserve to be happy. The kids came together. They had a lot of heart and character.”
Sam Houston qualified for the regional finals for the fifth-consecutive year. The previous four appearances were in Class 3A.
The Hurricanes defeated Cedar Park Vista Ridge 61-56 March 2 and Edinburg Vela 66-58 March 6 to advance to the Region IV title game.
“We learned that nobody can stop us,” Sam Houston junior wing Robert Christian said, “as long as we keep playing the way we play.
“We really didn’t give up (against Cedar Park). The shots weren’t falling for us. They were for them.”
Those are lessons Christian (a team-best 10 points against Cedar Park), sophomore point guard Jawon Anderson (15 points and five assists vs. Vista Ridge) and six other non-seniors on the Hurricanes’ playoff roster can carry over to next year.
“We learned to play as a team,” said Christian, who had 17 rebounds and 10 steals in the last two games. “We were playing as individuals when the season started. We stepped up as a whole unit.”
Sam Houston had won five of its previous six games going into the Cedar Park contest, losing only 72-70 to 26-6A champ Reagan in double overtime. The streak began with a 72-60 upset of 28-5A champion Lanier, its only district loss.
“That district was very competitive,” Coleman said. “In our previous district, we were winning games by 30 points. Still, every game, we’d get up 10-12 points but end up losing. We turned it around by the end of the season.”
Sam Houston trailed Vista Ridge 32-28 at halftime and fell behind Vela 30-20 at the midway point. Against Vista Ridge, the Hurricanes scored 10 unanswered points early in the second half to take control. In the third quarter against Vela, the tide turned because of intense defense and three-point shooting from Henry Carter (11 points.)
“We knew we had to control the boards,” said Sam Houston senior post Devin Allen, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. “Once we started doing that, the shots started falling. It opened things up.
“It just came down to how badly we wanted it. You could see that, late in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter, they started wearing down.”
The shooting surge, as supplied by senior Jarrett Burks against Vista Ridge, never took place in the season finale.
“I think our defense was really dominating,” Cedar Park coach Blake Brown said. “We wanted to prevent them from driving to the basket. They got some good looks at times, but we stuck to our game plan overall.”
Burks sank three 3-point baskets in the final quarter against Vista Ridge to balance an offense led by Christian’s 19 points.
“My teammates just told me to spot up and knock it down,” Burks said. “Once I hit that first one, the next two, they were running guys at me. But my teammates had faith in me.”
Allen and Burks were third-year varsity members who helped set the tone for this year’s team.
“I’ve always believed that if you do the work, in the classroom and on the court,” Coleman said, “good things will come. We believed in ourselves. We knew we were a very good team, even if our record didn’t show it. Teams knew they were going to get a battle (from) us.”