Paetow High School, Panthers, Texas high school boys basketball, Katy ISD, Davion Sargent

Sargent, Panthers hungry for district championship

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 1/3/20

As if motivation from missing the playoffs by one game last season wasn’t enough, Paetow’s boys basketball team was picked by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches to win District 19-5A this season.

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Paetow High School, Panthers, Texas high school boys basketball, Katy ISD, Davion Sargent

Sargent, Panthers hungry for district championship

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As if motivation from missing the playoffs by one game last season wasn’t enough, Paetow’s boys basketball team was picked by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches to win District 19-5A this season.

It was quite a statement on paper. And in the Panthers’ district-opening 76-50 win over Bryan Rudder on Jan. 3, senior guard Davion Sargent made sure to make a statement on the floor, too.

The 6-foot-1, 161-pounder scored a game-high 24 points, showcasing a variety of rim-snapping dunks to go with 5-of-6 marksmanship from 3-point range.

“We wanted to show everybody that we’re the team to beat,” Sargent said. “I just wanted to come out and make a statement. It’s very important. I want to set the standard for us. We wanted to send a message.”

Sargent added four rebounds, three steals and three assists, seemingly finding his groove at the perfect point of the season.

“He’s playing a lot more consistent,” said first-year Paetow coach Michael Niemi, who was the head coach at Kempner the previous two seasons. “Earlier on, it was kind of a rollercoaster, because he was trying to do too much, but now he’s shooting the ball well, attacking in transition, defending and rebounding. He’s playing really well.”

The Panthers finished 6-8 in district play during their inaugural year of varsity basketball last season. Niemi admitted it came as a surprise when TABC picked them to win the whole thing this year.

“I appreciate the ranking,” Niemi said, “but I think they got ahead of themselves a little bit as far as picking us to win district.”

But …

“We’ll take it. I like it,” Niemi said. “It puts that needed pressure to perform every game and perform every single practice with the mindset of being picked to win district. Well, what does that look like? These guys have no clue. Being the favorite is really good, but we’re going to experience some trials and tribulations because of those expectations, and I’d rather it be that way than not.”

Perhaps TABC knew something when it made its rankings three months ago that maybe the Panthers had not quite figured out yet. They certainly do now.

They’re a team complete with athleticism, shooting, size and quality depth, including an ideal mix of senior leadership and young up-and-coming talent.

“We all feed off each other,” Sargent said. “We’re all our own players and we all can create.”

Aside from the electric Sargent, there’s a smooth floor leader in senior David Bradley, a sharpshooter in junior Brian McKnight, diverse playmaking in junior Jayden McCullough, and a versatile scorer in sophomore Trevor Frank.

“We were a first-year varsity team last year, and we were still so close to making the playoffs,” said Bradley, who had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists against Rudder. “That kept us motivated the whole way, during the offseason and into now.”

It starts with Sargent, one of the top scorers in the city of Katy. Over the summer, Sargent worked hard on shooting. He now can score prolifically at all three levels: at the rim, mid-range pullups and from 3.

A reluctant shooter last year, he doesn’t second-guess himself now.

“I just let it go,” Sargent said.

It’s made a considerable difference.

“When he can knock down shots, he forces hard closeouts that can open up drives,” Niemi said. “His athleticism being what it is, and him playing in the open floor, is really important, but the fact he can knock down a 3 in the halfcourt really helps us out as far as spreading the defense and opening up things for other guys.”

“He attacks the rim so well, and when his shot is falling like it is … he has all the bits and pieces,” Bradley added. “I keep telling him to keep up the pace, keep playing confident and just keep rolling.”

When Kempner played Paetow twice last season, Niemi saw a Panthers team that had a tendency to get down on itself and each other, not entirely unexpected for a young team. His initial priority was to install more of a team mindset.

It’s been a process to get players working for each other, instead of just with each other, but it’s producing results. Paetow is 14-7 overall and has already bested last season’s win total of 11.

“We wanted to fix a bit of the mentality about how we approach games and how we approach practice,” Niemi said. “Davion being able to do what he can do, in addition to David and some of those returners having that experience and being able to see how they were so close last year … now they’re hungry. They’ve attacked all summer long in our strength and conditioning camp and our skill sessions. They want to win.”

That much is indisputable. Talk around the Panthers’ locker room isn’t about just making the playoffs. There’s a desire to win the district and finish No. 1.

“That’s our goal,” Bradley said. “People have predicted us to win. We’ve just got to prove them right.”

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