High School Boys Basketball

Mustangs fall short in playoffs, but team ‘unforgettable’

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 2/21/21

Taylor’s boys basketball team had three goals this season: make the playoffs, win the district championship and make it to the third round of the playoffs, the regional quarterfinal stage that has eluded the program.

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High School Boys Basketball

Mustangs fall short in playoffs, but team ‘unforgettable’

Posted

Taylor’s boys basketball team had three goals this season: make the playoffs, win the district championship and make it to the third round of the playoffs, the regional quarterfinal stage that has eluded the program.

The Mustangs accomplished two of the three, as a necessary step toward the third was derailed by a strong third quarter by Fort Bend Bush in their Class 6A bi-district playoff game Saturday at the Merrell Center. Trailing by two points at the half, Taylor was outscored by seven in a third quarter that ultimately led to an 83-71 defeat.

Taylor finished its season 15-6 overall and district champion for the first time since 1995. Bush, boasting talent and skill well beyond its fourth-place standing in District 20-6A, improved to 12-9.

Broncos junior Zion Bourgeois scored 15 of his 21 points in the third quarter, mostly on pull-up midrange jumpers. With the Mustangs’ defense attending to 6-foot-9 senior post Brandon Love, Bourgeois took advantage.

“I don’t think we were ready to come out for that (third) quarter, to be honest,” Taylor coach Matthew Brayton said. “I don’t know what it was. Sometimes in our third quarters, we kind of struggle. The biggest thing is No. 1 (Bourgeois) scored 15 in the third quarter. We knew he could shoot it, but we wanted to shut No. 24 (Love) down. We could only slow down No. 11 (junior Tyler Smith) so much; the kid is special. When I looked up in the fourth quarter, (No. 24) had six and No. 1 had 21, and that’s … we can only shut down so many things.”

Bush’s size, length and athleticism were overwhelming. Smith, another 6-9 Bush forward, had 19 points and made three of five 3-pointers. Love had only six points through the first three quarters before scoring seven, five on free throws, in the fourth. Sophomore guard Ryan Hill was Bush’s fourth player in double-figure scoring with 10.

Senior guard Jake Arnold led Taylor with 22 points, five rebounds and three assists. Arnold capped off a remarkable career as a Mustang. As a sophomore, he was a little-used reserve; a good game meant scoring five points. But over the next two seasons, Arnold worked and worked and worked, eventually becoming one of the top five scorers in the Greater Houston area, scoring more than 1,000 career points as a Mustang, and earning a scholarship to NCAA Division I Houston Baptist.

“I have never been prouder of a kid I’ve coached in my life, and it had nothing to do with his game,” Brayton said. “It had nothing to do with his improvement from his sophomore to senior year. It’s his leadership and overall attitude. He was once a guy who would get on officials and would whine and complain a little bit. I did not know if he had that leadership in him, but the way he changed and listened when we talked … I’m so proud of more than just his game.”

Arnold said it was during his junior year that he realized concerning himself with things like officiating took away from his influence as a teammate.

“It might not affect the stat sheet, but it could affect the overall team,” Arnold said. “I realized when I did that (complain to the refs), other people could follow suit. I made it a point to stop and set the example, lead by example.”

Junior forward Troy Harris, a revelation as a junior varsity call-up just three weeks ago, added 20 points and six rebounds off the bench for Taylor. Senior forward Anthony Pelzer scored 11 points.

Add in tough-minded senior guard Luke St. Julien and stalwarts like Caleb Hart, and Brayton said this year’s Mustangs were “unforgettable.”

“I love that group,” Brayton said. “They’re something people will never forget. I just told them I loved them and thanked them. I’ve been coaching for 20 years and it was the best season I’ve ever had. I loved being around them and I loved watching them compete. The longer I coach, of course you want to win, but it's not about that. It's about the relationships and keeping up with them and hoping they're more successful than you and hoping they become great men, great fathers.”

The eight seniors—Arnold, Pelzer, St. Julien, Hart, Ricardo Millan, Michael Cummings, Jake Perry, and Matthew Shorb—left their mark on the court and off it.

“It’s the relationships, really,” Arnold said. “You can’t really explain going through the ups and downs, strength and conditioning camps every morning at 7 a.m. Stuff like that brings guys closer, and without that, there’s no this year. These coaches gave me a platform to play and get better, and the relationships with my teammates are lifelong.”

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