Houston, TX. Each year the “Season Opener” gives us an early indication of who’s ready for the big stage and bright lights, and who needs to look in the mirror and do some reevaluating. Some teams and kids that I had questions about answered the call, and some that I expected to see more from left me a little hungry for more. Here’s my recap of each game, my 1st and 2nd team “All Season Opener” will be published later tonight.
With Nimitz being without its 2 top players, I figured it would be an uphill battle… It turned out to be more of a mountain. NorthShore’s 2019’s Jalen Means, Bruce Scott and Keiman Capers got it done, and got it done in a big way. The trio finished with 16, 13, and 17 points respectively. Nimitz couldn’t handle the full court pressure, and you can tell the they needed their leaders. It was too much energy & too much heat that caused Nimitz to get in a huge deficit, where they would never recover. The lone bright spot for the Cougars was Antoine Rose finishing with 16 points. Northshore is a team that I wouldn’t want to see in February, coach Benítez has them focused and they’re extremely unselfish and disciplined.
OTR Prediction: Northshore 61- Nimitz 52
Final: NorthShore 71- Nimitz-48
The second match up of the day featured a new look Houston Christian team, who was without the #1 player in the city, Sahvir Wheeler, vs Humble, a team looking for some respect. Sophomore PG Noah Kon took the game in his hands leading his team with 31 points, going 18-21 from the free throw line. 2019 Ty Archibald chipped in with 14 points for HC, catching fire from 3 early in the game. I figured this game would be close due to the similarities between the two teams. 2020 G Dylan Miles shot the leather off the ball for the Wildcats, knocking down 5 3’s, and had a team high 19 points. Humble kept the game close with their scrappy play, Malik Nash was big down the stretch scoring six points and closing the gap to 3 points in the final minutes before Kon’s free throws sealed it. Will be interesting to see Kon and Wheeler in the back court together.
OTR PREDICTION: Humble 67- Houston Christian 64
FINAL: Houston Christian 65- Humble 59
This game was the fast-paced thriller I assumed it would be. Spring Woods jumped out early behind UTEP commit Jesse Zarzuela, who was looking to show everyone he’s as good as advertised. He actually was better, splitting the full court press of Sam Houston by himself for several tough finishes in traffic. He had a game high 29 points. The one thing about the Ralph Barreras led team is that they will never give up or lay down. Sam Houston went on a 19-3 run between the 2nd and 3rd quarter to run past Spring Woods and take the lead. The senior laden team was carried by said players, Marlon Jackson 17, Chris Green 11, Earl Beal 10, and 1st team All Tough Guy member Kevin Baker had 21 points. The full court press got to Spring Woods and once the ball was out of Zarzuela’s hands it was curtains. Nico Hardin ended the game with 10 points for SW.
OTR PREDICITION: Sam Houston 75-Spring Woods 63
FINAL: Sam Houston 68- Spring Woods 59
I billed the Morton Ranch vs Dickinson game as a “Battle of the Robin’s” between Morton Ranch’s Eddie Lampkin and Dickinson’s Deuce Guidry. Lampkin and Guidry both lived up to their supporting roles with 18 and 21 points each. But it was the Batman’s”, LJ Cryer and Tramon Mark that stole the show. Tramon Mark from the jump proved he was on a mission putting on a scoring onslaught of 41 points, Cryer was not to be outdone, scored a team high 29 points. During one stretch in the 3rd quarter, the two guards went bucket for bucket, & it was fun to watch these two “DUDES” go at it. The X factor however of this game was Morton Ranch’s Adrian Caldwell, who had several uber athletic plays, including a one hand tip dunk where his head was above the rim! The junior forward finished with 15 points. I look forward to seeing both the team make a run toward San Antonio this season.
OTR PREDICTION: Morton Ranch 74- Dickinson 67
FINAL: Morton Ranch 82- Dickinson 70
Yates and Beaumont United combined for 190 points in 32 minutes… With 10 players scoring double figures. For Yates, Joquarius Valrie 26, Darryl Brown 18, Antwon Norman 13, Carnal August 13, and Rubin Jones 12. United went like this, Jakia Oliver 26, Kasen Harrison 17, Justin Pleasant 15, Glenn Bibbins 12, and Jaylen Subject 11. This was a trap fest, as both teams pressed the entire game, which seemed to favor Yates, who seems to thrive in organized chaos. United answered the Yates attack early on with a 19-12 lead after the 1st quarter led by Oliver’s 11 points. The 2nd quarter however belonged to Yates and junior guard Antwonn Norman who hit three big 3’s to take the lead 37-33 at the half. The 2nd half was a shootout between United’s Harrison and Yates’ Valrie and Brown. Harrison scored 15 points and assisted on 6 baskets in the half, and Valrie & 2020 dual sport star Darryl Brown seemed to score every big basket for Yates in the 4th quarter, filling it up with 20 and 16 points. I felt like I was at a ping pong game with all the back and forth action. Very entertaining, wild, chaotic game.
OTR PREDICTION: Yates 83- Beaumont United 70
FINAL: Yates 96- Beaumont United 94
The two state champs collided with contrasting styles as Concordia Lutheran held off Port Arthur Memorial behind a stud performance from Kansas State commit Montavious Murphy. He looked like a high major forward yesterday, hitting 3’s, attacking the baskets for dunks, rebounding outside of his area, and taking over the game. He carried his team all night. Pierce Hellums, and Evan Palmquist chipped in with 12 and 14 points each. Memorial was led by 2020 F Kenneth Lofton who was tough finishing around the basket and making plays for his teammates. A new star was born on the big stage last night, freshman Amaree Abrams came in the game aggressive and lead the charge in the 3rd quarter with 13 big points and finishing with a team high 22 for the defending 5A state champs. Lofton and Nate Clover had 14 and 16 points a piece for PA Memorial.
OTR PREDICTION: Concordia Lutheran 80- PA Memorial 70
FINAL: Concordia Lutheran 69- PA Memorial 62
The final game of the night was the most competitive one. Two rivals squared off as a Klein Forest was looking to earn some “RESPECK” against an Eisenhower team that many believe will make it back to the regional final. It was a defensive battle from the start and you could tell early that both teams were locked in to the game plan. Again, what I most appreciated about this game was that despite the kids being cool, they competed hard against each other. Central Oklahoma commit Kharee McDaniel was sensational for Klein Forest, he never got outside of himself and kept his team under composure, finishing with 22 points. His teammate Dylan Hamilton made some crucial buckets finishing with 16. Eisenhower was paced by Texas Southern commit Ja’Mare Redus, who tried to put Ike on his back and carry them to a win. He led all scorers with 34 points, 2021 G Patrick Punch finished with a double of 11 points and 11 rebounds for Eisenhower. I wouldn’t mind watching these two teams play a few times a year.
OTR PREDICTION: Eisenhower 75- Klein Forest 70
FINAL: Klein Forest 60- Eisenhower 56