High School Basketball

Young, talented Spartans edge Mustangs for 1st in 19-6A

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 1/12/21

Seven Lakes boys basketball coach Shannon Heston feels like he’s playing with house money these days.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
High School Basketball

Young, talented Spartans edge Mustangs for 1st in 19-6A

Posted

Seven Lakes boys basketball coach Shannon Heston feels like he’s playing with house money these days.

With just two seniors on his roster, and a freshman and sophomore in the starting lineup, Heston’s Spartans are in first place in District 19-6A following their 58-49 win over Taylor on Tuesday at Seven Lakes High.

With each team 5-0 in district play entering the game, the exuberant Spartans outlasted a Mustangs team without its best player in senior guard Jake Arnold to win the first of two meetings.

Seven Lakes improved to 11-2 overall, 6-0 in district. Taylor dropped to 11-3, 5-1.

“If you would’ve told me we’d be playing Taylor at the end of round one (of district play) to be in either first or second in district, I would’ve signed those papers right then and there,” Heston said. “Nobody has told them that they’re not supposed to be in first place, and we won’t be the first to tell them, either.”

The Mustangs led 27-25 at halftime, courtesy of an 11-point second-quarter outburst from senior point guard Luke St. Julien. But the Spartans started the second half on an 8-0 run, and a pair of late 3s from junior wing Stinnett Prior awarded them a 45-40 advantage going into the fourth quarter.

“It was huge, giving us all that momentum,” said Prior, who had seven of his 11 points in the third quarter. “As a team, I think we do a good job rallying around in-game situations. Most of our games this year have come in the clutch.”

In the fourth quarter, freshman guard A.J. Bates took over.

The 6-foot-1 Bates was cool and calm under pressure, scoring half of his team-high 12 points in the final quarter as he controlled the game’s tempo in the final minutes when Taylor desperately tried to climb out of a six-point deficit.

“The No. 1 word I use with people when I talk about A.J. is composure,” Heston said. “There’s nothing that rattles that kid. He just turned 15. He’ll get himself into some trouble sometimes, but he’ll typically get himself out of trouble. He’s so gifted at handling the ball and wanting the big moment. He’s the guy we’re giving the ball to in the fourth quarter to make the right decisions for us.”

Bates knocked in a couple of layups in the fourth quarter and hit two of three free-throws in the final minute.

“The fourth quarter is where people make their name,” said Bates, who added four rebounds, four assists and three steals. “Once it comes, I know my team can rely on me and my teammates to make big plays for us to win. I know if I don’t make plays for my team, I let them down.”

Taylor produced an admirable effort despite the absence of Arnold, the district’s top scorer who suffered a rolled ankle during a win over Katy on Jan. 9. The injury is not considered to be serious, and Arnold was in good spirits and heavily engaged with the team before and during the game, lending his leadership and experience during timeouts.

Senior wing Anthony Pelzer led Taylor with 19 points, five rebounds, and two steals. St. Julien added 16 points, five assists and three steals. But the next closest Mustang in the scoring column was senior Caleb Hart with five.

Seven Lakes, meanwhile, had four players in double-figure scoring with Bates, Prior, sophomore Braedon Bigott (11) and junior Blake Miller (11). Senior Ashwin Nair added six points.

“We do a good job moving the ball, everybody’s getting their points and opportunities,” Prior said. “Everybody contributes. That’s how we win.”

And Heston feels his team can be even better. Four of his varsity players came over from the football team in mid-December and are still finding their roles on the team. Heston said he has a team of youth and talent, and the fact it still has so much room for growth has him excited.

It has his players thrilled as well, as they are hungry for the program’s first district title since the 2013-2014 season.

“It feels good to get this win, get in first place, but the job’s not done,” Bates said. “We’ll see (Taylor) again, and we’ve got to keep practicing and keep working hard.”

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment