San Antonio Cole had to wait a year to finally get its moment.
Exactly this time a year ago, the Cougars were the very last team to punch their ticket to the 2020 state finals before the UIL suspended the boys state tournament due to COVID-19. The tournament was later canceled altogether, putting their hopes of clinching the program’s first title since 1989 on hold.
The trek to get back to the Alamodome started then and head coach Noe Cantu’s message to his returning players was clear, play for those who didn’t get the chance to.
Not only did Cole (27-5) make it all the way back to the Alamodome, this time the Cougars got to finish the job and won the 3A state championship in convincing fashion, 77-60, over Tatum (25-4) Friday afternoon.
“It’s kind of like a storybook ending,” Cantu said. “You practice and you prepare to get to this moment. Our heart was set on winning a state championship last year and then with COVID and everything getting shut down, and being just one game away from doing that, we were kind of being denied that. We were all motivated to get back playing again and come back here.
“It’s one thing to get here, a lot of teams get here. But it’s another thing to win it and I’m proud of our guys for doing it.”
It’s Cole’s first championship since Shaquille O’Neal’s team lifted the trophy over 30 years ago. Seeing their names in the same conversation as the Big Diesel is something juniors Silas Livingston and game MVP Trey Blackmore will always cherish.
“That’s a great thing to be in the same category as an NBA Allstar, Hall of Famer, you name it,” Blackmore said. “It’s special for everyone.”
Blackmore finished with a game-high 34 on 8-of-13 shooting with 15 free throws. The junior seemingly got every shot he wanted. Blackmore and Livingston (24 points) broke through Tatum’s press with ease, outscoring the Eagles 31-12 in the third period after a contentious first half.
“We just told our guys to be a little bit patient on the press break,” Cantu said. “We felt like we were breaking the pressure pretty good. In the first half, we kind of rushed things early on.”
Despite the strong first half, Tatum’s foul trouble caught up with the Eagles in the second half. Two key contributors, Kendric Malone and Dalone Fuller, eventually fouled out and Decartiyay Allison, another starter, finished with four fouls. The Eagles were forced to stretch their rotations thin during Cole’s biggest runs of the game. Jayden Boyd ended as the team’s leading scorer with 15 points.
“We thought the game was called a little bit tighter than it would be for a state championship game,” Tatum head coach Brett Carr said. “I thought we had great position and had some calls go against us early, stuff like that changes your rotation. But their guards are players. (Blackmore) did a fantastic job. They’re smart players.
“We fought all year long, they fought today extremely hard. We got in a little foul situation early and we talked about that early, but it did catch up to us in the game.”