South Grand Prairie stood atop the highest platform among this state's high school basketball circles this week to deliver message for all of Texas to hear.
The Warriors' reemergence a season ago was no one-year wonder, even with the loss of key pieces off a team that advanced to the state-title game.
Unfazed by the stage on which they found themselves on Saturday, a feisty South Grand Prairie dictated the tone and tempo in getting out to a fast start and defeating Jonesboro (Ark.) 47-44 in the championship game of the Whataburger tournament's top division at Thomas Coliseum.
The Warriors looked anything but an underdog in topping one of the top-ranked teams from Arkansas and Texas' fifth-ranked team the night before.
“Our goal is to get back and win” state this year, said SGP coach Brandon Bennett, whose team fell a game short a season ago. “That's the expectation of all the guys in the basketball program.”
There's no better place to cultivate that goal than the experience of the Whataburger tournament, where very good basketball teams gather annually.
And the best experience is good experience.
Rick Curry, an all-tournament selection, had eight points and eight rebounds, for South Grand Prairie. Tournament MVP Jalon Anderson led a defensive intensity that helped the Warriors score the game's first eight points.
South Grand Prairie (12-2) extended its lead to as many as 10 in the second half, before Jonesboro started to chip away. A 3-pointer by Brad Sherrill and a two by Marquise Pointer plus two Warriors turnovers trimmed SGP's lead to three with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter.
“Great basketball teams don't give up,” Bennett said. “Jonesboro played really hard.”
Anderson hit two free throws in the last minute to seal victory.
Kahron Ross led Jonesboro (10-2) in scoring with 15.
“We had to work back to where we wanted to be,” Anderson said, referring to key losses SGP's backcourt from a season ago. “We're back now.”