BOYS BASKETBALL: Sam Houston takes step forward to Region IV championship game

Alamo Heights proves big obstacle for Lanier

Boys basketball
Sam Houston

The Hurricanes (21-7) advanced a step further than in 2010-11 and 2011-12, but their season came to an end last Saturday afternoon in the Region IV championship game.
Sam Houston lost 69-58 to Brookshire Royal (29-9), from the Houston area. If the senior-laden Hurricanes had won, they would have advanced to the Class 3A state tournament.
Sam Houston has not qualified for state since 2004-5, when it won the Class 4A title.
“They put their stamp on it,” Hurricanes coach Issac Thornton said, referring to the impact his seniors had on the program. “I wasn’t at Sam Houston during the glory days, but they always had a lot of size and big players. These guys were able to do it with a different style of play.
“They put their mark on it.”
The loss in the title game stung a bit because Sam Houston wasn’t able to put its best foot forward, because junior point guard Jordon Harris had a severe asthma attack and two other players were held out of the game.
Harris helped the Hurricanes establish a 19-8 lead in the first quarter, but wasn’t able to play much longer because of asthma.
“They came out in a zone, which played into our hands,” Thornton said, “Then they made adjustments. Jordon didn’t play much at all and we had a couple that didn’t play for disciplinary reasons, so we were up against it.
“Jordon started, but as the game went on, we had to take him out. Jordon usually gets us into our offense, so without him, we sputtered.”
Royal pulled away with a 29-4 run in the second quarter to take a 37-25 halftime lead at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. The Falcons got some of the Hurricanes’ key players in foul trouble and made their first 17 free throws to get separation from Sam Houston.
They finished the game having made 30 of 37 free throws. By contrast, the Hurricanes were 11 of 15.
“The free-throw line was the difference in the game,” Thornton said. “I know we play aggressively and commit more fouls than most teams, but I didn’t think there was that much of a difference. They played an aggressive man-to-man, too.
“But we didn’t adjust to the way the game was called and that got us out of our game. They’re a good team, and we we had a lot of things working against us that we couldn’t overcome.”
Seniors Terrance Winkfield (15 points), Terrence Washington (14) and Isaac Thornton (9), the coach’s son, were the Hurricanes’ three leading scorers. Each of them was in foul trouble in the first half and fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Sam Houston outscored the Falcons 13-10 in the third quarter and closed within five points in the fourth quarter, but Royal’s free-throw shooting kept it out of trouble. The Falcons were led by Wesley Wilson with 25 points, 20 of them from the free-throw stripe.
“We cut it to five and then there was a crucial play,” coach Thornton said. “They called an over-and-back when our guy was clearly pushed across halfcourt.”
In the semifinals, Sam Houston avenged a loss to West Oso (13-21)that ended their season a year earlier. This time, they defeated the Bears 60-40. The win extended the Hurricanes’ winning streak to 13 games and ended the Bears’ 12-game streak.
The Hurricanes had a run of 16 unanswered points that started midway through the first quarter. With West Oso ahead 6-2, Washington (20 points) sank a three-pointer off an inbounds pass to start the run, which was fed by five Hurricanes steals. Sam Houston led 35-23 at halftime, forcing 20 turnovers in that span.
“Our pressure bothered them,” Thornton said. “Their ballhandlers weren’t that strong, although they had a strong player inside.”
Isaac Thornton and Winkfield each scored 10 points for the Hurricanes. Harris contributgd nine points.. West Oso was led by Davon Fox with 20.
“We didn’t handle the win that well, and that’s part of being a good team –the ability to handle winning,” Thornton said. “I would have expected us to handle it a lot better.”
Sam Houston thoroughly dominated its regional quatrerfinal game against a Fredericksburg team that was playing in that round for the third time in four years. The Hurricanes made 14 of 25 three-point baskets, propelling them to a 90-63 win over the Battlin’ Billies (24-11) at Boerne Champion.
The three-point barrage began in the first quarter, when senior Richard Nation (12 points) knocked one down from the left wing to give Sam Houston an 8-2 lead. Nation made four of five from long distance during the game.
“He’s played a tremendous role for us,” Thornton said. “He’s a first-year varsity player. We had some guys not playing earlier (for disciplinary reasons). So he stepped into that role, and when they came back, he held it.”
In a dazzling display, the Hurricanes made 13 of their first 17 shots from three-point range. At that stage, Sam Houston led 74-29 with 1:27 left in the third quarter.
“We did a good job moving the ball around,” Isaac Thornton said. “We were able to get a lot of open (jumpers) and we just knocked them down.”
Sam Houston’s lead reached 19-7 as the first quarter ended after Thornton (16 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocked shots) and Harris (18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals) turned consecutive steals into fast-break layups.
A steal and dunk by Harris made it 42-21 and the Hurricanes led 48-22 at halftime after Harris set up Nation for another three-pointer from the left wing. They had expanded the lead to 75-45 by the end of the third quarter.
“We broke down defensively in the second half,” Isaac Thornton said, “but (Fredericksburg coach Tim Kaman) is a heck of a coach, so I knew he’d make adjustments. Because we’re experienced, it didn’t throw us.
“I’m proud of the way the guys played. They were unselfish and were hitting the open man.”
Washington finished with 14 points and four rebounds. Winkfield (3 assists, 2 steals) scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to put all five starters in double figures. Senior Myron Knight made a pair of three-pointers off the bench and finished with seven points.
“It’s been fantastic,” Isaac Thornton said after the Fredericksburg game. “Since freshman year, we’ve been focused on going to state. We wanted to show people we could do it.
“I think we’re more together this year. We’re playing more as a unit and we have a lot of experience. That’s been helping us. We’re bringing the tradition back to Sam Houston that was there before.”
Sam Houston will return five players from its postseason roster – Harris, junior Brandon Seals, sophomore post Devin Allen, sophomore Myles Thornton (Thornton’s son), freshman Dwayne Brown and freshman Brandon Vargas.
“Those guys will all play key roles for us next year,” Thornton said. “We also had an outstanding freshman group, and those are actually different type of players. They’re very athletic and much more disciplined, on and off the court. I’m looking forward to next year.”
The road came to an end for the Voks (29-6) Feb. 26 in the Class 4A Region IV quarterfinals against a supersized Alamo Heights team. Lanier was aiming to qualify for the regional semifinals for the third-straight year.
Lanier held a 21-17 halftime lead over Alamo Heights (31-3), but scored just 13 second-half points. The Mules put together a 13-1 run in the third quarter and went on to win 50-34.
The Voks forced nine turnovers in the first half to gain the upper hand. Lanier senior Joe Luis Gonzales scored all of his team-high 11 points before halftime. Senior Martin Sanchez added 10 points. Junior Ajax Reyes scored seven.
For Alamo Heights, the Mules’ 6-foot-10 junior center Ben Lammers finished with 13 points, 20 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Alamo Heights eliminated Lanier for the second-consecutive year. The Mules won 72-58 last year in the regional semifinals.