HUNTSVILLE — For the second year in a row, Connally gave its highly ranked regional foe everything it had.
And for the second year in a row, the Cadets came up just a little short.
No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Silsbee survived Connally’s upset bid with a frenzied fourth-quarter surge, as the Tigers tamed the Cadets, 75-66, in the Region III-4A semifinals at Sam Houston State’s Johnson Coliseum.
Silsbee (27-8) moves on to Saturday’s 1 p.m. regional final and a meeting with No. 2-ranked Houston Yates. Connally closes out its season with a 23-9 record.
“Despite all (the disappointment), I’m really proud of the guys and their effort,” Connally coach Quinton Snell said in a postgame radio interview. “We had a great season. We came into the game with 15 straight wins. This is one of the toughest regions in the state, and whenever we get here we always face top teams. They’ve been here three times in a row, and they showed their wares.”
The Cadets hung with the talented Tigers throughout the game, but turnovers and a handful of missed bunnies around the goal gave Silsbee an escape hatch. Silsbee led just 51-48 going into the fourth quarter, but was able to outscore Connally, 24-18, in the final period.
Connally displayed some nice passing and aggressiveness in taking it to the basket in hanging right with Silsbee in the first half. The Cadets were able to take a 38-36 lead into the halftime break when Trajan Snell knocked down a 3-pointer just before the halftime horn.
As it’s prone to do, Silsbee pushed the tempo at every chance it could. Connally can play that type of game, but against the hyperactive Tigers, their best strategy was often to slow things down and try to execute in the half-court game. “You’d see a gap, and they’d close that gap in a hurry,” Snell said.
Braelon Bush scored 24 points after scoring 37 in the regional quarterfinal round, leading Silsbee. Devon McCain added 18.
Sophomores Je’Juan Forward and Zailin Cleveland scored 12 points apiece to top Connally. Four-year starter Trajan Snell added 10 in his final game in a Cadet uniform.
“The guys represented well,” Snell said. “We’ve got a bright future in Connally basketball and the Connally athletic program.”