Written by Corbett Smith
'Snoozer' semifinal win gives SGP chance to wake Sunday as 5A champions
AUSTIN — Asked how long it took for him to get over last year’s one-point regional final loss to eventual state champion Flower Mound Marcus, South Grand Prairie guard Ben Emelogu said it still haunted him.
“The only point that’s going to make me feel better,” Emelogu said, “is when I’m holding up that trophy when we win. … The pain is still there. That’s what pushes us every game to win.”
Solace for the senior could be a day away.
Behind 20 points by Mark Howell and 14 points, four assists and six rebounds from Emelogu, South Grand Prairie suffocated Cibolo Steele, 60-43, in its Class 5A semifinal Friday at Texas’ Erwin Center.
In its first trip to Austin since 1975, South Grand Prairie (37-3) will play for its first basketball title at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Like many games at this year’s state tournament, SGP’s win was a snoozer.
SGP led by double digits for most of the second half, driving people out of the gym as early as the third quarter with dominant defense and a solid lead.
Championships aren’t awarded on beauty points, however.
“If it’s a win, it’s a win,” Howell said. “We’ll take it.”
Steele (25-13) led for just 16 seconds, shooting 29 percent from the floor. SGP has held opponents to fewer than 60 points in all but one of its wins this season.
“They were fighting through every screen we made,” Cibolo Steele coach Lonny Hubbard said. “That’s one of those deals where you’ve got to match their physicality, and we were lacking there at times and it hurt us.”
Every time Steele took a cut to the basket, or looked for a jumper, there was an SGP player ready to challenge. Guard C.J. Siples, who led Steele with 13 points, said his team hadn’t faced a San Antonio-area team this season with as much length and athleticism.
A four-point play by Siples gave Steele its only lead, 9-8, with 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter. On the next possession, Emelogu found Jalon Anderson for a lay-up. Emelogu, a Virginia Tech signee, hit a buzzer-beating jumper from the elbow at the end of quarter.
SGP coach Brandon Bennett said that last year’s loss to Marcus has been the fuel for his team’s focus this season, calling it “a great opportunity for us to learn.”
Emelogu and Howell said they couldn’t bear to watch Flower Mound Marcus’ televised final against Fort Bend Travis a year ago.
“I watched part of it,” Emelogu said. “But my stomach got sick.”
Howell said, “I saw the opening starting lineup, and turned it.”
Before he cut the game off to watch cartoons, Emelogu texted Bennett, “We should have been there.”
And now, they are.
Follow Corbett Smith on Twitter at @corbettsmithDMN.