Cypress Falls saves the day for H-Town

SAN ANTONIO – An already overcast, gloomy day in the Alamo City was getting downright ominous for Houston area fans of high school basketball.

A championship weekend in the Alamodome that had such a promising start with three Houston area schools advancing to their respective divisional state championship games had suddenly gone awry.

First, Fort Bend Marshall let a 10-point halftime advantage slip away and fell to the defensive wizardry of Mansfield Timberview in the Class 5A title game.

Then Brazosport’s magical season came to a screeching halt behind the relentless full-court pressure of Silsbee in the 4A championship tilt.

The first five minutes of the Class 6A nightcap belonged to San Antonio Wagner and 6-foot-9 Baylor University-bound post Tristan Clark. With 10 first-quarter points, Clark nearly outscored Cypress Falls by himself as the Thunderbirds led 19-11 to start the second stanza.

That’s when Cy Falls head coach Richard Flores made a defensive adjustment that swung the momentum squarely in favor of the Eagles. Flores inserted 6-7 senior post Maitlond Wanza in his lineup to battle Clark with assistance from the backside.

“We made some adjustments and we continued to make adjustments throughout the course of the game,” Flores said. “We started out a little sluggish but we started valuing the ball.”

Clark led Wagner (36-3) with 18 points. Kevin McCullar added 12 and Jalen Jackson finished with 11.

Junior Nigel Hawkins scored seven consecutive Cy Falls points on a driving layup, a mid-range jumper and converting 3-of-4 free throws to bring the Eagles within 21-18.

Andrew Nguyen made two free throws and junior point guard Trajan Wesley nailed 3-of-4 free-throw attempts to close out the second quarter and forge a 23-23 stalemate at halftime.

Kendall Scott scored the first field goal of the third quarter on an offensive rebound that gave Cy Falls a 25-23 edge it would never relinquish.

“Our defense and our energy is what turned the game around,” said Hawkins, who was named the Class 6A championship game Most Valuable Player following his team’s 63-57 victory over San Antonio Wagner. “We knew that if we could get stops and run they wouldn’t be able to keep up with us.

“At halftime we talked about picking up our energy and the defensive rotations,” said Hawkins, who finished with 18 points and four steals. “On offense we wanted to stop being so stagnant.”

Cy Falls (35-3) led by as many as 11 points (51-40) on a Hawkins layup with less than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

Yet Wagner refused to go away and came within 56-53 in the final minute of play.

Wesley scored eight of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, including 6-of-8 free throws in the final minute, to seal the victory.

“We wanted to fit into coach Flores’ game-plan and gut out a victory,” Wesley said. “[Wagner] threw some haymakers at us when the game started and we had to adjust.

“My team has counted on me all season to make free throws and at the end of the game I had to have the mental toughness to knock them down.”

Cy Falls won the school’s first state basketball title and snapped a string a six consecutive championship game losses (combined boys and girls) by Houston area schools over the past two seasons.

“I’m just glad we could represent Houston and bring a title back,” Flores said. “As a group our will to win has been tremendous throughout the season.”