By Allan Jamail
Cypress-Fairbanks, Harris County – Berry Center – Friday, March 1st and Saturday March 2nd 2019 — The North Shore Mustangs East Side Boys Basketball team, under the direction of Head Coach Sam Benitez, captured Regional Title, to advance in the 2019 Boys State Basketball Championship – 6A Regions 1 & 3 tournament.
1ST OF 2 GAME TOURNAMENT:
In a two-day tournament the Galena Park ISD Mustangs on Friday came from a 13 point deficit to defeat the Fort Bend ISD Elkins Knights 69 to 62 in overtime.
After trailing the entire game, late in the fourth quarter Coach Benitez called timeout to give the team his strategy to pull out a win. After the timeout, the team shifted gears and began playing more aggressively. The lead changed by just one point a few times and was tied twice.
With the final 47 seconds on the clock, a 3 point shot by guard KJ Smith tied the game 57 to 57, putting it into overtime. The East Side Boys offense made 12 points, and the defense held Elkins to just 5 points, winning 69 to 62. Mustangs Leading scorer’s #0 Joshua Cooper with 18 points, #11 Bruce Scott with 16 points, and #15 Jalen Means 10 points.
After the game, NC Star writer Allan Jamail asked Coach Benitez what he most contributed the come-from-behind overtime win to. Benitez said, “The East-Side Boys pride.”
Elkins coach Albert Thomas said the Knights came up short of a third regional contest chance because a lack of an aggressive attack, along with a few mishaps and free throws.
Doubling back the next day, on Saturday the Mustangs defeated the Lamar CISD George Ranch Longhorns 35 to 32 for the Regional Championship title, to earn a trip to San Antonio’s Alamodome to take on the Duncanville Panthers, Friday, March 8th at 7 PM, in the State Semi-Finals Championship Tournament.
FINAL REGIONAL TITLE TWO GAME:
Saturday, March 2nd — The Mustangs having to play back-to-back games with only a few hours rest, Head Coach Sam Benitez and the team loaded up on buses and began the long drive to Cy-Fair’s Berry Center for the second day of the two-game tournament.
The Regional Title game was low scoring, 35 – 32. North Shore and George Ranch put on a thrilling defensive show for their fans. Coach Benitez said he knew the Mustangs were tired from the start because of not having much time to rest from the long overtime game played hours before. “I knew they’d have to reach down deep inside to find the hustle and scrappiness needed to win. They did, and they deserve this hard fought earned win,” Benitez said.
As the NC Star writer who covers the Mustangs, I knew when the East Side Boys pride kicked in, they were not going down without a full-team attack on both ends of the court.
Coach Benitez said, “North Shore is a family, no matter what the sport being played is — football, basketball, track, baseball, golf or band. The administration, faculty, families, friends and former students are all supportive of the students here.”
The Mustangs trailed the Longhorns the entire game, and trailed deep in the fourth quarter until senior forward Keiman Capers made a 2 point shot, followed by a 1 point free throw by junior forward Randy Woodard to bring them within 1 point. The defense shut-out the Longhorns, and after a missed basket on the next play, Mustang Senior Guard Bruce Scott drilled a 2 point jumper to give the Mustangs their first lead, 33 – 32. The Longhorns missed another shot and fouled Scott, putting him on the free-throw line for 2 shots with eight seconds left.
Longhorn Coach Charlie Jones called timeout, trying to freeze Scott, but the senior guard must have ice water in his veins. He remained calm and controlled as he put the final nails in the coffin, hitting nothing but net, making it 35 – 32, and getting crowned UIL Region 3 – 6A Champs.
Senior Bruce Scott and junior Oriekose Egbule led North Shore with 12 points each.
NEXT: DUNCANVILLE AGAIN!
Winning the Regional Championship earns North Shore (33 wins – 3 losses) a trip to San Antonio’s Alamodome to take on the Duncanville Panthers (30 wins – 7 losses) on Friday, March 8th at 7 PM, in the State Semi-Finals Championship Tournament. These same schools only four months ago battled for the State’s football title, which the East Side Boys pride prevailed then too.
Watch Live Broadcast, North Shore verse Duncanville, Live on NFHS Network!