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Hot Dragons fall to rival Houston

Senior Brett Warner scored 13 points in Collierville’s 67-58 road loss to rival Houston. The Dragons jumped out to an early 21-16 lead. However, the Mustangs, paced by Marlon Hunter’s 26 points, used a 20-11 run early in the second half to separate from Collierville. The Dragons will play at 6-8 Wooddale on Friday.

Senior Brett Warner scored 13 points in Collierville’s 67-58 road loss to rival Houston. The Dragons jumped out to an early 21-16 lead. However, the Mustangs, paced by Marlon Hunter’s 26 points, used a 20-11 run early in the second half to separate from Collierville. The Dragons will play at 6-8 Wooddale on Friday.

By Bill Sorrell
The Trashy v. Classy clash that fuels the fiery rivalry between Collierville and Houston would be more of a smash if student sections were on equal footing said a Collierville basketball player.
“I am not saying the student section changes the game but it’s just not fair. We need to put ours downstairs. Theirs is downstairs. That is just not fair at all,” said Drew Andrews after the Dragons’ 67-58 District 15-AAA loss at Houston on Friday.
Collierville students were in the balcony while Houston students were on the floor for the game that has a tradition. As the “classy” home team, Houston guys wore coats and ties and girls wore dresses and heels. Collierville students wore “trashy” clothing, including camouflage, overalls and hunter orange. The scene will flip-flop on Jan. 30 when Collierville will dress up as it hosts Houston, which will dress down.
“I enjoy it,” said Andrews of the tradition. He also enjoyed the electric environment. “I love coming out and playing against a bunch of people like that. I love being on the floor. It’s almost like you feel that you are in a college arena.”
Andrews, who scored 10 points, played against the likes of Marlon Hunter, a senior who has signed to play basketball at Western Kentucky University.
Hunter scored a game-high 26 points. He played against Brian Shaw who gave the Mustangs 13 points. Shaw started after normally coming off the bench. Andrews played against Justin Benton who scored 12 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.
“Having those other two scorers in double figures helped us a lot,” said Houston coach William Buford. “Hunter is consistent. It was a great team win, not only because it was a rivalry game but it puts us at 2-2 in district. They had already beaten Germantown so it puts us in a better position. We needed to get another win under our belts where we have multiple scorers. We have people being aggressive and going to the basket.”
The victory improved Houston to 13-6 while Collierville fell to 12-5, 2-2 in district.
Offense and defense were keys to the victory said Hunter, who decided on Western Kentucky because of four seniors who will be leaving and expects “major minutes” as a freshman.
After freshman Ryan Boyce, the Mustangs’ tallest player at 6-5, rebounded and scored at the halftime buzzer to give Houston a 36-35 halftime lead, Hunter made two straight steals to open the second half, each time scoring baskets.
“I was anticipating the passes and getting deflections,” said Hunter.
Collierville cut the five point lead to 40-38 on three straight free throws, two by B. J. Carrothers and one by Brett Warner.
Shaw then hit a trey and Houston led 43-38. Another trey by Shaw got the Mustangs their biggest lead of the game 56-46 at the end of the third quarter.
Trailing 60-51 in the fourth quarter, the Dragons went on a five-point run to pull within 60-56.
A turning point came when a missed layup with three minutes left failed to extend the run said Collierville coach Jonathan Mooneyham.
“We had made a little run to get back into it. Our seniors have been there. They knew what to expect. They handle the zone well. They didn’t lose emotional control. I think we can just limit a few of our turnovers and if we shoot a little better, we could have won that game easily. I am disappointed that we did not win but I am not down. I feel like at our place we can make those corrections. They (Mustangs) are long and athletic. They are hard to overcome. Long and athletic goes a long way in basketball.”
Said Andrews, “They had a couple of players step up in the second half. We just couldn’t get hot. Nobody got hot in the second half. They had a couple of guys that did. I didn’t make a couple of big shots I should have made and I didn’t come in in the clutch. Big shots were key.”
What was clutch for Houston was its press. “I felt like our press wore them down in the second half and by the time the fourth quarter hit they couldn’t hit the shots that they would normally make that they made in the first half,” said
Buford, whose team thrives on man-to-man pressure along with zone coverage. “We do everything possible.
“My assistant coach was telling me to make sure we stay in our press and by the end it was going to pay off and that is what we did. We held their best player Brett Warner to three field goals the whole game. He did not score a field goal in the second, third or fourth quarter. To me that is a great accomplishment.”
Warner is an accomplished player. He has been all-district and the team’s MVP. He has signed to play at Delta State.
He had 10 points by halftime, three field goals in the first quarter, and then hit three free throws in the second half.
“I personally didn’t step up and I didn’t do like I was supposed to do in the second half,” said Warner, a 6-2 senior. “If I take my shots and I make those, it’s a whole different ball game and we would be on top. We played hard. In the first half everything was going well and we were making shots. It was an even game. In the second half they were able to knock down shots and found their place. They were hot. We couldn’t find any open looks.”
Houston’s Brian Harper said, “We were most concerned about Brett. He is a great shooter. If you leave him open, he will knock it down. We kept playing defense and running in transition helped us. In the fourth quarter they kept turning the ball over. We felt like we had them beat.”
The Dragons went three minutes without a basket in the fourth quarter. The first quarter was a different story.
Collierville had taken its largest lead, 21-14, with 56 seconds left in the first quarter on Warner’s basket. The Dragons had five-point leads three times: 19-14 on free throws by Carrothers and another Carrothers’ basket that made it 23-18. An under-the-goal, backhand basket by J.B. Hayes, who at 6-3 is the team’s tallest player, got the lead to 27-22. Hayes would finish with 15 points, one behind Carrothers’ team-high 16.
After Hunter’s baskets had given the Mustangs leads at 2-0, 6-4, 12-11 and 14-11, they did not regain the lead until Boyce’s a second before halftime.
“That was momentum for the next half,” said Benton. “We came into the locker room excited with energy. We came up in the second half and took care of business.”
Taking care of business said Buford included running time off the clock. “They have such good shooters. We want to make sure we ran some time off the clock. We have been in these type situations before and now we are growing up in the situations and taking care of the ball. The foul differential being 7-2 or 7-3, they were going to have to come out and foul.”
Houston was near perfect at the foul line, sinking 15 of 17 free throws. Collierville made 13 of 21.
Hunter had 18 points by halftime.
“Hunter is a great player and great athlete,” said Warner, who has twin brother Brad Warner as a teammate. “In the first half he killed us. In the second half down the stretch No. 22 (Benton) really found his shot and was lights-out. He killed us in the second half.”
Said Benton, “I felt like I gave my team what I could. I left it all on the court. We pulled even with them, it was tic for tac. We made our free throws and that was the game right there. I felt like everybody did their roles. They defended and rebounded. As a team we pulled through with the win.”
Hunter said, “They (Mustangs) have got toughness in them and they can play hard and they have got heart. I play hard. I get everybody involved. I am an energy guy. I can go both ways. Some people think I can’t dribble but I really can.”
The ball further bounced the Mustangs’ way in the fourth quarter when free throws by Jimmy Jenkins and Shaw’s basket stretched the lead to nine, 60-51. Two more free throws by Benton provided breathing room at 62-56.
After Brett Warner scored the Dragons’ last point at 64-58 with 33.6 seconds left, Ty Robinson helped to seal it with two free throws, 66-58.
“We played hard. We can’t panic. That is what they want you to do, force a shot. When you are down six, you have to focus and keep running your offense and trust in your offense and your team. That is what we have to do,” said Warner.
Drew Van de Vuurst scored a point and had some precision assists while Brian Green scored 3 for the Dragons. For Houston, Boyce, Robinson, Kalen Nicholson scored 4 each while Harper and Jenkins scored 2 each.
Shaw said his game was about opportunity. “I saw my team needed me. Coach gave me the opportunity and I made the most of my opportunities. Coach gives everybody the ability to do what they can do and he gave me the opportunity to shoot the ball and I didn’t disappoint. If we keep playing this way, we will be in the state tournament. We haven’t been there. We are trying to make history here,” he said.
With a senior-laden team, the Dragons are also trying to make it a season to remember.
“We are not the most athletic or quickest, fastest or strongest (team),” said Warner. “We have something on the team that most teams don’t. We fight no matter what. We might be down 20 points and can come back. Most teams if you get down early you give up and quit. We all brag on each other. We are all family and that is what high school needs.
“This is our year,” he continued. “We are not taking anything for granted. Each game is going to matter equally. Houston is a really big rivalry. Southwind is big but Kirby should be just as big.”
Last year, the Mustangs started 18-1. “We haven’t peaked yet,” said Buford, who was a point guard at Longwood (Va.) University. “We are not going to give up on anything, no matter what the score is.”
Mooneyham, who was an athletic trainer at Lipscomb University and got his Master’s in education at Virginia Commonwealth University, has a forward focus.
“We are going to move past this. That is the great thing about basketball. You play in a few more nights. You have got to have a short-term memory. They will be ready to play. I never doubt their effort,” he said.
The Dragons hosted Ridgeway on Tuesday with a Buckets For Brain Tumors emphasis. It was organized by Hayes, who recovered from a benign brain tumor two years. He organized it last year when he lived in Simsbury, Conn.
Hayes moved to Collierville in September. All proceeds go to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation based in Asheville, N.C.

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