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Cy Falls’ hoops geared up for another state title run

Cy Falls’ hoops geared up for another state title run
Cy Falls will look for another deep run. Vype

Originally appeared on Vype.com.

Cypress Falls made school history winning the 2017 UIL 6A state basketball title, but it’s also in a unique position with its returning talent.

The Golden Eagles not only have six seniors back from the second state championship season in Cy-Fair ISD boys basketball history, but five of them are returning starters.

“We’re trying to make it more memorable,” forward Zach Stephenson said. “Focus on this year, and try to do it again, so it will be more significant later in life.”

The starters include guards Trajan Wesley, Andrew Nguyen and Nigel Hawkins, as well as forwards Kendall Scott and D.J. Weaver.

Wesley is a Louisiana-Lafayette commit, and Hawkins won the UIL State Championship Game MVP last season.

The players know they have something special, and have a bond for life, whether it’s competing on the court, playing NBA 2K or meeting up for meals.

“It’s a good brotherhood,” Nguyen said. “A lot
of memories have been made. Before the lights even come on, you see the bonds we have made and how much fun we have before the game. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

A big part of the team’s success is coach Richard Flores. He taught them before last season’s run to never be the hunted.

“He’s really humbled us and made us realize that we have to take it one game at a time,” Nguyen said. “We can’t look into the future. We have to think about the present right now and we can’t look back at the past.”

That mentality came after a 2016 playoff loss
to Sam Houston. The Eagles remembered the feeling of loss against the Tigers, who advanced to the state tournament in San Antonio.

The Eagles’ six-pack of talent started to excite the community before last season and a buzz started to settle in. That’s why Flores stressed to them that everything they did between then and the year’s ultimate goal would decide their destiny. That approach paid off in not only the championship, but his players turning into leaders as well.

“They know what the expectations are,” Flores said. “The guys have been a lot more vocal, and have taken more and more leadership of the program.”

That was on display at RCS Sports’ Super 16 Extravaganza in late September and early October.

Falls could’ve come out rusty like other teams, but it finished in the top four. That start excites Flores, but he also noticed a couple of areas where his team can improve before district
play and the postseason — defensive rotations, transition, ball movement and game rhythm.

If they clean those up, Flores’ team will be in great shape.

According to him, Weaver is as healthy and strong as he was before his sophomore ACL injury, his speed is back and his ball-handling has improved. Flores also expects Stephenson and Scott to take the next step in man-to-man defense, catch-and-shoot situations, being active on the glass and creating opportunities for teammates.

Wesley played a big role in closing out San Antonio Wagner in last year’s state title game and plans to answer some of those calls. He wants to be a vocal leader on offense and defense, give his teammates more touches and help new players adjust to the team’s system.

When the media and fans talk about this
group’s potential for the season ahead, the team, coaches and school community will be cherishing the run on a daily basis. They are in a rare position where they recognize greatness as it’s happening and don’t want to miss a minute.

“They mean a bunch to this community, this school and to me,” Flores said. “They’ve already established a legacy. If we win, they’ve just added to their legacy, and if we come up a little short, they’ve already established themselves as one of the best teams in the state and in the nation.

“They set a standard for this program, as to what [it needs] to do to be successful.”

 

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Coogs beat the Sooners, 87-85. Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images.

Jamal Shead hit a short follow shot with 0.4 seconds left and No. 1 Houston beat Oklahoma 87-85 on Saturday night, giving coach Kelvin Sampson a victory over one of his former schools.

Shead missed a driving layup attempt, but corralled the rebound and put the Cougars back ahead after they blew a 15-point lead. Emanuel Sharp tipped away a desperation pass by Oklahoma’s Milos Uzan as time expired.

“The main thing (on the last shot) was to get it to the rim,” Sampson said. “We weren’t going to shoot anything outside of 5 feet. There were three ways to win that game — a whistle, make the shot or (grab) an offensive rebound and put it in — and we got the third one.”

Sampson credited the result to Houston’s “winning DNA. We had a lot of things go against us tonight. … We were just plugging the holes in the boat up.”

L.J. Cryer led Houston (26-3, 13-3 Big 12) with 23 points, making 5 of 9 3-pointers. J’Wan Roberts added 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, and Shead scored 14 points. Houston shot 56.7% from the field and Oklahoma was at 52.7%.

Rivaldo Soares had 16 points for Oklahoma (19-10, 7-9). Le’Tre Darthard had 15 points, finishing 5 of 7 from 3-point range.

Sampson coached Oklahoma from 1994 to 2006 and ranks second in program history with 279 wins and first in winning percentage (.719). Before Saturday, he’d never coached against the Sooners, but Houston’s entry into the Big 12 for this basketball season provided that opportunity.

Sampson received a warm welcome as he entered the Lloyd Noble Arena court, with many fans applauding, cheering and standing. Just before player introductions, Sampson and his three assistants with Oklahoma ties — former players Hollis Price, Quannas White and Kellen Sampson, his son — were individually recognized with announcements and pictured on the video board.

“The memories that I will take from here are just amazing,” Kelvin Sampson said. “Oklahoma will always be home in a lot of ways.”

Houston made its first week this season at No. 1 a successful one, with two wins. The Cougars are a game ahead of No. 8 Iowa State in the conference standings with two games left in the regular season and remain in the conversation for the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Houston has won eight of the last nine games it has played as the No. 1-ranked team and is 35-5 overall while atop the AP poll.

Oklahoma dropped its second game of the week against a top-10 opponent, having lost 58-45 at Iowa State on Wednesday night.

The Sooners pushed Houston to the limit. Houston led 67-52 with 12:01 left, but the Sooners methodically closed that gap and Javian McCollum’s layup with 11.8 seconds left tied it at 85. It came after a hustle play by Uzan, who tracked down a rebound off a missed free throw and threw it off the leg of Sharp, allowing it to carom out of bounds.

Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said the vibe in the Sooners’ locker room was “tough. It wasn’t like they were happy to be close. They’re hurting. That’s a good sign. … That’s the elite of the elite and we’ve got to find a way to win that. That’s my job.

“I thought they were resilient battling back. Houston made tough shots, open shots, good shots. They do a lot of good things … but I thought we did too. We played the best team in the country, but we fell short. The margin of error when you play a team that good is small.”

Godwin went 6 of 6 from the field and led Oklahoma with 17 points, missing only the one free throw in six attempts as well. He also had seven rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Houston: Sampson surely appreciated the warm welcome from fans on his return to Oklahoma, but he’s undoubtedly glad to have the emotional game against the Sooners over with. Now he can push the Cougars to focus on finishing the regular season strong and prepare them for the postseason.

Oklahoma: A win over the nation’s No. 1 team might have pushed the Sooners up a line or two in NCAA tournament seeding, but the loss shouldn’t damage their postseason hopes too much. Oklahoma probably needs at least one win next week — at home against Cincinnati or at Texas — to stay comfortably off the NCAA bubble heading into the Big 12 Tournament.

UP NEXT:

Houston: At Central Florida on Wednesday night.

Oklahoma: Host Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

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