UIL Boys Basketball State Tournament
(Schedule for San Antonio-area teams)
Class 6A semifinals: Steele (30-8) vs. Klein Forest (32-3), Friday, 8:30 p.m.
Class 5A semifinals: Wagner (32-5) vs. Sulphur Springs (29-8), Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Class 3A semifinals: Cole (34-5) vs. Dallas Madison (19-15), Thursday, 3 p.m.
There will be no shortage of storylines when Steele, Wagner and Cole play in the UIL boys basketball state tournament this week.
Can Wagner win the Class 5A championship after losing in the 6A final two years ago and dropping in classification with the UIL’s biennial realignment?
Can Steele, which has lost in the semifinals in its two previous state-tournament appearances, reach the 6A title game this time?
And can Cole win another state championship 30 years after Shaquille O’Neal led the Cougars to a title as a senior in 1989?
The University Interscholastic League boys basketball tournament, which moved from Austin to San Antonio in 2015, starts Thursday morning at the Alamodome and ends with the 6A championship game Saturday night. Champions will be crowned in all six classes of the UIL, which governs extracurricular activities for Texas public schools.
“It’s always an exciting time,” Wagner coach Rodney Clark said Sunday. “I’ve gotten so many calls and text messages from friends that my phone’s about to blow up. I didn’t even recognize some of the numbers.”
Wagner will play Sulphur Springs in the 5A semifinals Thursday at 8:30 p.m. The Thunderbirds earned their fourth berth in the state tournament with a 98-45 rout of Corpus Christi Miller in the Region IV-5A final Saturday at Littleton Gym.
Wagner lost back-to-back semifinal games in 2009 and 2010, when future NBA players Jordan Clarkson and Andre Roberson played for the Thunderbirds. Wagner beat Keller in the semifinals last year and fell to Cypress Falls 63-57 in the 6A championship game.
The Thunderbirds have two players on their roster who played on the 2016-17 team. Senior guard Jalen Jackson started as a sophomore and junior Journee Phillips saw considerable playing time as a freshman.
“I think our experience will help,” Clark said. “We played a pretty heavy schedule, so it’s not like our players don’t understand the importance of playing hard in big games and winning games. On the flip side, we do have some inexperience because most of our kids were not on the team when we went to the state tournament two years ago.
“But that’s why we play in some in some tough tournaments and go against some good teams in non-district. We want our players to know they’re going to have to bring our or they’re going to be sitting at home (when the playoffs start).”
Mansfield Timberview (36-2) plays Manor (28-10) in the first 5A semifinal Thursday at 7 p.m. The winners meet for the championship Saturday at 3 p.m.
Wagner beat Timberview 70-68 in the title game of the Whataburger Classic in Haltom City, which is near Fort Worth.
Steele, which is making its third state-tournament appearance and second in four years, plays Klein Forest in the 6A semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The Knights lost to South Grand Prairie in its first appearance in 2013, and fell to DeSoto in overtime in 2016.
Steele was expected to have a drop-off after losing Gerald Liddell and Jayden Martinez to graduation, but the Knights won the District 26-6A title again and are 30-8 going into the state tournament.
“This is an extremely likable group,” Steele coach Lonny Hubbard said. “They’re a bunch of great kids. They’re good in the classroom. They go to class, they’re on time to class. People thought we weren’t going to be good anymore because we lost Gerald and Jayden, but that’s been our rallying cry all year long.
“Our kids felt disrespected. When we started off 0-4, we really heard it. But our kids turned it around. It took a lot of work, physically and mentally, but we got on a run and it’s gotten better and better.”
Liddell, 6-foot-8, is now a small forward at Texas and Martinez, 6-6, is playing at the University of New Hampshire.
Galena Park North Shore (33-3) meets Duncanville (30-7) in the first 6A semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday. The championship game is set for 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Cole is making its sixth appearance in the state tournament and first since 2012. The Cougars have lost in the semifinals four times (1967, 1968, 2006, 2012). Coached by Dave Madura, Cole’s 1988-89 team won the Class 3A state title and finished 36-0. Shaquille O’Neal went on to LSU and they rest, as they say, is history.
Cole plays Dallas Madison in the 3A semifinals Thursday at 3 p.m. Winnie East Chambers (31-2) faces Brock (33-5) in the first 3A semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The winners meet for the championship Saturday at 10 a.m.