“We can be one of the best teams in the state if we just continue to play for each other and play selfless,” Norton said. “We have to continue improving defensively as well because our offense will take care of itself with how talented some of the guys are."
It had been a few weeks since Seven Lakes was tested in district play.
The Spartans had been rolling, winning 13 straight, including their first six District 19-6A games, but they knew that as good as they had been playing, they would have a tough task facing a talented and well-coached Cinco Ranch team.
“Anytime we play those guys its s dogfight,” said Seven Lakes head coach Shannon Heston. “I’ve been here since we started playing varsity basketball and we have played so many games against Cinco, I can’t remember one game where it was decided by halftime. It doesn’t matter who’s the better team, this game is always going to be so tough and today was no exception. They were shorthanded but had such a great gameplan and they smacked us in the mouth.”
The Spartans knew they’d be in for a battle, and it was just that, as they had to overcome trailing most of the game before pulling away in the fourth quarter to beat the Cougars 65-55, staying unbeaten in district and cementing themselves as the top team in District 19-6A through the first half of the season.
It wasn’t a runaway win and the Spartans were given all they could handle from the opening tip. Cinco Ranch jumped out to an early lead, going up by four at the end of the first quarter and growing that lead to as much as nine in the second quarter.
But Nasir Price and Brett Norton kept the Spartans in the game, despite Seven Lakes struggling, as both made clutch plays. Price was everywhere in the first half, hitting a buzzer beating three at the end of both quarters and finishing the half with 18 of the Spartans 28 points as Cinco Ranch led 31-28 at halftime.
“Nasir is such a special player even as a freshman,” Heston said. “He has a chance to compete at a very high level and not just in high school, he has a chance to be the best player to come through this school, and you could see glimpses of that today. He just played in the moment, he scored our first seven points, he hit two buzzer beaters and then he also handled the ball and created for others. It’s a huge deal at that age to be able to see and understand what you need to do in each moment.”
Once halftime hit, the game started to shift Seven Lakes’ way, the Spartans stepped up their pressure defensively in the second half and were able to make the Cougars uncomfortable with their press and with traps, things were tied at the end of the third quarter and the Spartans were starting to get back in the game.
“We knew at half that we had to stop letting them be so comfortable on offense,” said sophomore forward Tillman Jaramillo. “We picked up the pressure, whether it was a full court press, half court trap, anything we could to not let them get in their offense and that was the difference in the game. Our energy was great and it got us back in the game.”
Jaramillo struggled with his shot in the first half, but was one of the biggest difference makers in the second half, hitting three three-pointers, including one that put the game out of reach, putting the Spartans up 11 with just over a minute remaining.
Jaramillo’s confidence came from his team, as his coaches told him at halftime to keep shooting because they knew he would come up with clutch baskets. Jaramillo went back out on to the court before the start of the second half, and he started feeling it.
“The second you lose your confidence as a shooter, it’s over, it disrupts everything, so I just told myself keep shooting it and my coaches did too,” Jaramillo said. “I just kept my confidence and I knew eventually the buckets would come. Thankfully it led to some big moments in this game.”
Seven Lakes continues to win, but the Spartans know that they are just scratching the surface of their potential and hope to continue building as they prepare for the rest of district play and the playoffs.
“We can be one of the best teams in the state if we just continue to play for each other and play selfless,” Norton said. “We have to continue improving defensively as well because our offense will take care of itself with how talented some of the guys are. But we have to lock in defensively and finish possessions every time down.”