UIL Boys Basketball State Tournament

Thursday-Saturday, Alamodome

(Results, schedule for San Antonio-area teams)

Class 5A semifinals: Justin Northwest 65, Alamo Heights 54

Class 4A semifinals: Silsbee (28-8) vs. Somerset (28-9), Friday, 3 p.m.

You've heard it before: Basketball is a game of runs.

Justin Northwest put Alamo Heights on its heels with one midway through the second quarter Thursday night, riding the momentum for a 65-54 victory in the Class 5A boys basketball state semifinals at the Alamodome.

A crowd of 10,651 watched the last game of the first day of the University Interscholastic League State Tournament, which ends Saturday with championship games in six classifications.

Northwest (34-5) will play Port Arthur Memorial (33-5) for the state title Saturday at 3 p.m. Memorial beat Midlothian 61-49 in the first 5A semifinal earlier Thursday.

Alamo Heights, making its first appearance in the state tournament since 2012 and seventh in school history, finished 32-7.

"That's a great team on the other side, but I love our guys' effort," said Mules senior guard Brandon Johnson, who nailed five three-pointers and led Heights with 20 points. "I love playing with these guys. I wouldn't trade this game for anything else in the world.

"They just hit tough shots. It seemed like they would just hit tough shot after tough shot after tough shot. They played great defense and we just didn't hit enough shots to win the game."

Senior Evan Carcanagues hit a jumper to put the Mules up 21-20 with 4:20 left in the second quarter, but the Texans ended the period on a 13-2 run that gave them a 33-23 lead at intermission. Julien Smith hit two threes and Mason Hix had one to key the run.

Heights never recovered.

"That hurt to go into halftime down 10," Mules coach Andrew Brewer said. "We did some good things early on in the ballgame. We limited them to one shot (per possession) early on, but they're such a good team. They're so strong, they're so long, that every little mistake you make they're going to capitalize on. But our guys fought back. I'm proud of our effort."

Johnson agreed that the Texans' 13-2 run in the final 4:20 of the first half was critical.

"That was definitely a momentum swing toward them, and we had to chip away at that," Johnson said. "You've got to give a lot of credit to them."

The Northwest frontline of 6-foot-9 Sammie Freemen and 6-7 Hix was simply too much for Heights. Freeman scored 13 points and dominated the paint, finishing with 17 rebounds and three blocks. Hix scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Northwest won the rebounding battle 37-26.

When the Texans weren't getting the upper hand inside, guard Avery Anderson burned the Mules with his outside shooting. He finished with a team-high 16 points, making 7 of 15 attempts. Smith scored 13 points and was the only other Northwest player in double figures.

Johnson made his last game a memorable one, getting his 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting. He was 5 of 8 from the three-point line. Evan Carcanagues scored 12 points, and he and Tyler Glover each finished with seven rebounds.

The Mules whittled Northwest's halftime lead to seven, 33-26, on a three-point play by Carcanagues in the first minute of the third quarter. But the Texans methodically pulled away, leading by as many as 15 points in the period.

Ahead 49-36 heading into the fourth quarter, Northwest went up by 19 (57-38) but Heights refused to fold, going on a 14-2 run that cut the Texans' lead to 59-52 with 1:27 left. Anderson completed a three-point play 11 seconds later to put Northwest back up by 10.

While disappointed after the game, Johnson stressed the many positive aspects of the season.

"Best season I could ask for," he said. "Being a senior and coming to state with my best friends in the world, I couldn't ask for a better senior season."

The Mules had an all-senior starting lineup. Other starters besides Johnson and Carcanagues were Tyler Glover, Matthew Pisano and Andrew Reichert.

"I'm so proud of our guys' effort," Carcanagues said. "Brandon Johnson played probably his best game of the playoffs on the biggest stage. That's just what shooters do. They come out in front of the biggest crowds. I'm so proud of him and the rest of the team."

Somerset is the only other San Antonio-area team in the state tournament. The Bulldogs play defending state champion Silsbee in the 4A state semifinals Friday at 3 p.m.

Justin Northwest-Alamo Heights updates

Final: Justin Northwest 65, Alamo Heights 54

Fourth quarter, 44.3: Northwest 62, Alamo Heights 52

Fourth quarter, 6:00: Northwest 55, Alamo Heights 38

After three quarters: Northwest 49, Alamo Heights 36

Halftime: Justin Northwest 33, Alamo Heights 23. The Mules led 21-20 before the Texans ended the half with a 13-2 run.

GAME PREVIEW

BKH Alamo Heights starting five_1520549632538.jpg.jpg
The Alamo Heights all-senior starting lineup is composed of forward Evan Carcanagues, left to right, guard Brandon Johnson, point guard Matthew Pisano, guard Tyler Glover and center Andrew Reicher.
David Flores / Kens5.com

Alamo Heights hopes to hit another gear in basketball state semifinals

UIL Boys Basketball State Tournament

Thursday-Saturday, Alamodome

(Schedule for San Antonio-area teams)

Class 5A semifinals: Alamo Heights (32-6) vs. Justin Northwest (33-5), Thursday, 8:30 p.m.

Class 4A semifinals: Silsbee (28-8) vs. Somerset (28-9), Friday, 3 p.m.

Alamo Heights boys basketball coach Andrew Brewer had a simple message for his players Monday when they returned to school after earning a berth in the state tournament with a 70-33 blowout of Laredo Nixon in the Region IV-5A title game.

The Mules had a light workout Monday and spent a good chunk of their athletic period during the school day meeting with the media.

"It's two things," Brewer said, referring to what he told his players. "Enjoy the moment. And that's what today's for. Enjoy the day, and let's just enjoy it. Then it's time to shift gears on Tuesday and really get down to work.

"Let's don't be happy [just] to be there. Let's go there and try to win a couple of games. So the message is twofold: Have fun, enjoy this moment, because it is special, and doesn't happen very often. Enjoy it, soak it up, and then let's get to work and beat Northwest on Thursday."

Brewer also noted that one of the trademarks of this team has been an ability to stay loose and still stay focused on the task at hand. The Mules were at the top of their game against Nixon, holding the Mustangs to two points in the first quarter and allowing them only one three-pointer.

"We pride ourselves on our defense, for sure," senior forward Evan Carcanagues said. "That's what everything stems from for us. We love to get in the fast break. That starts by getting stops. It was a great team win."

Things should be considerably tougher Thursday night when Alamo Heights (32-6) plays Justin Northwest (33-5) in the Class 6A state semifinals at the Alamodome. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

Somerset is the only other San Antonio-area team in the state tournament. The Bulldogs (28-9) meet defending champion Silsbee (28-8) in the 4A semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday.

Alamo Heights has won 24 of its last 25 games since falling to Boerne Champion 44-39 in a District 26-5A game. Picked to finish third in district behind Champion and Dripping Springs, the Mules have improved steadily throughout the season.

"I think that at this point, we're playing free and easy and loose, and having fun with each other," Brewer said. "I think that's going to really play a positive role for us on Thursday."

Alamo Heights beat Harlandale 62-50 before its 37-point dismantling of Nixon with the regional championship on the line.

"I thought we played great," Brewer said. "You wonder if your team has another gear they can shift [to]. You know, January basketball, February basketball, if you have one more gear, then you have a chance to do something special. I think that's what you saw on Saturday.

"We gave our guys a plan. They executed it pretty much flawlessly and knocked down open shots. But they were just playing free and loose. Even though we haven't been this far in a little while, we have nine seniors who played lots of basketball. That's been really helpful for them and for the group.

Andrew Brewer, a 1994 Alamo Heights graduate, has led a Mules team to the University Interscholastic League State Tournament for the second time since succeeding Charlie Boggess as head coach in 2011.
Andrew Brewer, a 1994 Alamo Heights graduate, has led a Mules team to the University Interscholastic League State Tournament for the second time since succeeding Charlie Boggess as head coach in 2011.
David Flores / Kens5.com, KENS

Carcanagues, who averages 19.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists, headlines the Mules' all-senior lineup. The other starters are guards Tyler Glover and Brandon Johnson (12.2 ppg), and center Andrew Reichert.

"We're really a prideful group of guys," Carcanagues said. "Getting picked third in our district at the beginning of the year, that was kind of a gut shot that really threw some fuel on the fire for us and made us work harder and prove everything wrong.

"To have 32 wins and be in the state semis is a huge accomplishment for us and we're very proud of that. We've grown as a team since the season started. We've worked very hard for this opportunity and we're not done."

Alamo Heights, which won 3A state titles in 1952 and 1954, is in the state tournament for the seventh time. The Mules hadn't earned a berth in the state semifinals since 2012 when Brewer was completing his first season after succeeding longtime head coach Charlie Boggess. Brewer, 42, also went to the state tournament as a freshman player in 1991.

Regardless of how they fare in the state tournament, the 2017-18 Mules already rank as one of the best teams in Heights history.

"We've kind of been the underdog all season long, but we've fed off that," Pisano said. "We play really well as a team and the support from the community has been great."