Justin Northwest guard Avery Anderson, who endured last year's 23-point loss at the Alamodome in the UIL Class 5A boys basketball semifinals, had some advice for the team before Thursday's semifinal game against San Antonio Alamo Heights.
"I just said let's stick together, play for each other, and just don't look up in the stands," said Anderson, aware that there's seating for about 21,000 spectators. "Don't get nervous. Play like we've been playing."
The Texans did just that, putting on a dominant second half to beat the Mules, 65-54, late Thursday.
Northwest (34-5) meets Port Arthur Memorial (33-5) in the 5A championship Saturday at 3 p.m.
"It's not enough just to come down here and be happy about it," said Northwest coach Mike Hatch, whose Texans were eliminated last year in the semifinals by Missouri City Marshall. "I mean last year were tickled to death and it was a cool deal, but, I mean, you gotta win.
"At the end of the day it's about whether you win or lose, and these kids this year are focused on winning."
Against Alamo Heights (32-7), Northwest made 51 percent of its field goals (28 of 55) for the game. The Texans were a torrid 62.5 percent (15 of 24) in the second half.
Northwest had a 33-23 lead at intermission, but the 10 fouls called against the Texans bothered Hatch.
"We turned it over way too much, we missed a lot of easy shots, we put them on the free-throw line," Hatch said. "Those were three things we said we cannot do, and we didn't accomplish any of those in the first half. Second half we did a little better. Still put them on the free-throw line a little too much but the turnovers got cut down."
The Mules did cut the deficit to 59-52 with 1:27 left, but a three-point play by Anderson and slam dunk by Mason Hix gave the Texans a 64-52 lead.
"We just had that hungriness from last year," said Anderson, who led Northwest with 16 points. "We just took it and used it as motivation to get the W and move on."
Hix scored 14. Julien Smith, also a starter last year, added 13 points, while junior post Sammie Freeman recorded 13 points and 17 rebounds.
"They've been ranked high all year, so there's been some pressure on us," said Hatch. "But I think they've handled the pressure well. I think they feel like we're where we're supposed to be, but I think we're going to have to play a lot better on Saturday.