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Communication between PNG coach, Bulldog scorer goes silent during Madness

Port Neches-Groves head coach Chris Smith once coached Nederland post player Tyler Jackson during the Bulldogs star’s freshman year. Jackson can often be seen at PNG games supporting his former coach and friends on the PNG team.

Smith said this week, the two haven’t spoken and does not anticipate much chatter as the two prepare for the final Mid-County Madness game of the season.

“There is no talk,” Smith said laughing. “I’ve known him all through middle school. When they are off, he would come and sit in my office and talk to me. I can tell you right now that there is not going to be any talk until after the game. I’ll shake his hand and tell him ‘good luck’ when they call his name in the starting lineup, but that is it. I’m not texting ‘good luck’ or anything like that.”

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Port Neches-Groves High School.

Jackson is coming off back-to-back games of scoring more than 30 points. Smith said he was in attendance for both games.

“What is surprising is that everyone knows where the ball is going and he is still able to do it,” Smith said. “The confidence he is playing with right now is unbelievable. He is a great kid and a hard worker. I am amazed at how people can game plan for him and he is still able to get it done. That is a testament to all of his hard work and the coaching staff.”

Smith said his team has talked about every scenario when it comes to slowing down Jackson.

“We’ve looked at what to do when he gets the ball here and there and trying to make him get it out of his hands as quick as we can,” Smith said. “Ultimately, it is going to be who wants it more. If our kids want to stop him, they are going to do it. If he wants it more, then he is going to do it. I’ve challenged our kids by saying that he has had multiple 30-point games. I asked them if they wanted to be the next one. We will find out Friday.”

Smith said PNG has everyone back healthy, so there is a different energy with the program.

“Then you throw in Mid-County Madness and that amps it up a little bit,” he said. “Practices are better. School is better. Everything is better.”

PNG enters the game 5-11, 1-5 in District 21-5A. The Bulldogs boast a record of 17-2, 4-2. However, this rivalry shows that records have little meaning when the ball is tipped off.

“It is going to be fun,” Smith said. “The gym is going to be packed. This is our seniors’ last time to do it. It’s at home, so that is going to be a good feeling. I’ve seen years when the records were like this and it is a tight game. There have been years where the records are close and the games are not. You can throw the records out and the energy level is just different. It is a different game.”

The Indians have dropped three straight games to Beaumont United, Memorial and Crosby, respectively. PNG played Memorial and Crosby on back-to-back nights last week due to Crosby’s football team playing in the state championship game last week.

The extra time has allowed the Indians to heal and prepare for the Bulldogs, Smith said.

“We finally got everyone back,” he said. “We had a great first half against Crosby. We were up at the half and we had a bad third quarter. I want to see this team play four quarters. If we do that, I’d love to see where it can take us. I told our kids that we are not out of it. Yes, we dug ourselves into a hole, but it is nothing we can’t dig out of.”

For additional coverage, read https://www.panews.com/2021/01/22/bulldogs-jackson-on-fire-heading-into-rivalry-game/