SAN ANTONIO -- It’s been a long and winding road back to the UIL State Championships for the Slidell Greyhounds. And thanks to junior center Slayton Pruett, suffocating inside team defense and some clutch shooting down the stretch, that road ended at the Alamodome with a title. Slidell’s 49-36 win over Jayton Saturday morning was the first for the program since 1943 and meant the world to everyone in Wise County.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these young men and what bringing this title back to Slidell means to the community, “ Slidell head coach Casey Pierce said. “I’ve had strangers coming up to me all season that played on some of the Slidell teams 20, 30 and 40 years ago. This one meant everything to everyone.”
Jayton, making its first trip to state in program history, kept the game close through three quarters thanks to some tenacious defense and the play of Aaron Hernandez, Tye Scogin and Kaden Awe. But the size difference inside and the shot making outside by the Greyhounds proved too much to overcome.
“These kids played so hard just to get to this point and I couldn’t be more proud,” Jayton head coach Ryan Bleiker said. “I’m also proud of our entire community. There’s so many of them here from both towns that I wonder if anyone stayed behind. That type of support means so much to our coaching staff and the kids.”
A corner three from senior Ben McCasland followed by a nifty inside move and bucket by Pruett staked the Greyhounds to their biggest lead of the game, 36-27, with just over 7 minutes to play. Pruett, who finished the game with 21 rebounds, five blocks and 10 points, continually swatted away Jayton attempts and cleaned the glass at nearly a record pace. He fell one rebound short of a state record. Senior Hunter Horner along with junior Tristyn Talamantes helped him put the game away.
“This wasn’t just for my family but this is for our whole community,” said Pruett, whose grandfather played on the 1964 Slidell team that nearly missed in its bid for a state title. “This is the what we all wanted and it means so much to be able to deliver.”
Hernandez’s three-pointer with 2:41 to play in the third brought Jayton to within a point at 28-27. Easton Vanover’s three-pointer with just over a minute in the third pushed the Greyhounds’ lead to four which is how the quarter ended, 31-27. The quarter was dominated by great inside defense, charging calls and turnovers. It was also dominated the omnipresence of Pruett.
Slidell took a 22-17 lead into halftime behind the play of twin towers, Pruett and Horner. Jayton, which trailed throughout the first half, chipped away behind the shooting of Awe and the ballhandling and passing of Scogin and eventually tied the game late in the second quarter. But as was the case all morning, the Greyhounds pounded the ball inside and eased back in front as the half ended.