Brothers Will and Colton Luther remember seeing Texline’s 2015 state championship.
Senior Colton was a sixth grader at the time with Will still in fifth grade. That was when their dream of bringing the Tornadoes another title originated. But it’s hard to imagine that they envisioned exactly how it would happen six years later.
Texline (26-4) trailed by two with 17 ticks left in the game. Will Luther and Slidell’s Brock Harwell had traded the last eight points leading up to that point. Will inbounded the ball and received it back just before midcourt. The junior stopped on a dime near the 3-point line to shake off his man and put up a step-back shot, and hit, with 10 seconds to play and the clock running.
Slidell (29-4) couldn’t put up a shot attempt as time expired and Texline won its second 1A state title, 54-53.
“I was trying to get us to tie to go to overtime and I saw that they all collapsed and saw that my defender had too much momentum going so I just stepped back,” Will Luther said. “I trusted my shot because I hit a couple before it and when I released it, it felt good.
“They just trusted me, and I trusted them to get me the ball. It was just a team effort really. We communicate so well. We’re a band of brothers.”
Until Colton Luther’s layup with 1:18 to play, the senior’s lone bucket to go with his 13 rebounds, Slidell held Texline to 44 points while the Greyhounds went on a 16-0 run to take a two-point lead. The young Texline’s potent offense that had seemingly taken control of the game stalled out and gave way to an experienced Slidell surge.
“We just kept saying we got to get stops,” Texline head coach Coby Beckner said when his team trailed for the first time since the first half. Then he turned to the hot-shooting younger Luther when he knew it was time. Will Luther finished with 21 points and was named the game’s MVP.
“It was like I could see it in Willy’s eyes, and it happens every once in a while, because this kid can seriously go,” Beckner said. “Give him the ball, get out of his way and let him go.”
Until that second-half run from Slidell, the Greyhounds were mostly carried by senior Brock Harwell who finished with a game-high 23. The last reigning champions in 1A shot a mere 30 percent from the floor in the first half including 23 percent in the opening period.
“We just didn’t play the way we had played all year,” Slidell head coach Casey Pierce said. “We shot the ball poorly from the perimeter and this year, that’s been one of our strengths.”
It was an exhaustive ending to an even more exhaustive week for the Tornadoes who haven’t been home in four days. Texline left for its semifinal game in Denver City on Monday before heading straight for San Antonio with stops in Andrews, Big Spring and Wall along the way. Three nights in three hotels. But it was worth it.
Beckner called them a team of destiny.
“I think we deserved a little luck,” Beckner said. Those things happen for people that try to play the right way and try to live the right way.”