The Port Arthur News
Here’s a basketball riddle to ponder: if a free throw is shot in a gym and no one is looking, does it still count?
One unusual moment in the fourth quarter of Nederland’s 43-31 victory Friday over crosstown rival Port Neches-Groves spun out so many different storylines that dominated the game.
From a free throw disparity to foul trouble for PN-G’s big man to excellent defense by both sides, one made free throw that no one apparently saw became a microcosm for the game.
Afterward, Nederland head coach Brian English praised his team’s defensive effort most of all.
“Our kids played great, great defense,” English said. “Their boys did a great job controlling the game. They had a great game plan. Luckily, we were able to get away from them and hit some shots. We knew once they broke our halfcourt trap, we were going to have to play great defense and we did.”
On the fateful play in the fourth quarter, Nederland junior Colton Weisbrod made a layup and was fouled by Indian senior post A.J. Smith. The foul was Smith’s fifth, fouling him out of the game. As he was walking off and shaking Nederland head coach Brian English’s hand, Weisbrod took the shot and made it.
The referees put the ball in play and PN-G started down the court, but many people missed Weisbrod’s made freebie and the Bulldogs were not given the points on the board. PN-G inbounded the ball and ran down the court, as both coaches asked what happened and why the free throw hadn’t been attempted. Before PN-G could take a shot, play was stopped and the referees conferred.
Weisbrod was then awarded the point, Nederland’s 10th off free throws in the game. The Bulldogs finished shooting 14 of 19 from the charity stripe while PN-G attempted just four free throws, going 2 for 4.
According to the Nederland coaching staff, Weisbrod shot and made the free throw while Smith was walking off the court. The scoreboard operator did not see him take it, so didn’t award Nederland the point until play was stopped and the refs talked to the scorer’s table about it.
Smith played a big role in the game, but it was his foul trouble that limited the PN-G defense in the second half. The 6-foot-5 Smith came on strong in the first half, scoring just two points, but helping PN-G clean up on rebounds and get plenty of second chance opportunities. Once he picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, the Indians lost an important edge.
“Having a big man presence is crucial for a team,” PN-G head coach Pat Abel said. “When you lose that and have to play small, with a team that has a big man that plays well, it’s tough.”
The Indians used their own great defensive pressure early to stay with the 9-2 Nederland team. The first half saw four lead changes and three ties, as PN-G held multiple leads before the Bulldogs pulled ahead by a point at halftime.
Part of that was limiting the Bulldogs shot attempts, as Nederland had just 14 shot attempts in the first half. The other half of PN-G’s success was timely shooting, as point guard Ramil Glorioso hit three 3-pointers, two of which either tied the score or gave the Indians a lead.
Things broke down for the Indians in the third quarter, as they shot 1 for 6 from the floor and lost Smith’s presence on defense.
“It’s always an intense ball game,” Abel said. “From tipoff to the last horn, it’s always intense. That’s what makes it a fun rivalry, though. The kids did a great job of executing our game plan. In the third quarter, our kids struggled to make shots. Nederland will definitely hit theirs, and that makes it hard for us to play catch up in the second half.”
English said he was pretty positive with his team at halftime, praising their defensive effort and changing their offensive focus to attack the rim more often. Zach English did just that in the second quarter, scoring eight quick points to keep the Bulldogs apace of the Indians and Weisbrod helped Nederland take a 10-point lead in the third quarter.
Weisbrod scored the first six points for Nederland in the third and had 13 points in the second half. The junior finished the game with a game-high 17 points, six rebounds, one block and one steal.
“We really communicated well tonight,” English said. “Zach didn’t play too well in the first quarter, so we set him down. Sometimes, that helps get him going and it did this time. In the second half, we went to Colton and he did a great job of finishing. I thought the difference in the game came down to execution and we did a great job of executing our game plan.”
Zach English finished with 16 points and four rebounds for Nederland while Brandon Pham had 12 points for PN-G.
Nederland (23-8, 9-2) will travel to Beaumont Ozen at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday while PN-G (10-17, 5-6) will host Vidor.
Nederland 43, Port Neches-Groves 31
PN-G 7 8 3 13 — 31
Nederland 7 9 12 15 — 43
PN-G: Brandon Pham 12, Ramil Glorioso 9, Jacob Underhill 4, A.J. Smith 2, Eddie Cervantez 2.
NED: Colton Weisbrod 17, Zach English 16, Kirby Hanley 4, Jared Lorimier 2, Michael Shaw 2.
Statistics: Rebounds — Nederland 18 (Weisbrod 6); PN-G 13 (Smith 5). Steals — Nederland 6 (Hanley 2); PN-G 1. Turnovers — Nederland 3, PN-G 5. Fouls — Nederland 13, PN-G 14. 3-pointers made — Nederland 1 (Weisbrod); PN-G 4 (Glorioso 3, Pham).
Records: Nederland (23-8, 9-2); PN-G (10-17, 5-6).
Next: Nederland at Beaumont Ozen, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; PN-G hosts Vidor, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.