In District 17-4A, the grind never ends.
Sucking on a cough drop, a fuzzy ski beanie pulled down onto his dome, Connally coach Quentin Snell had the look of a man who was happy, but not fully satisfied. His district-leading team had just finished a hard-fought 49-34 win over Lorena minutes earlier at the Cadet Gym, but Snell was already plotting the practice plan for Wednesday.
“ To be honest, I don’t remember what was going on,” Snell said. “I was just trying to coach the kids, you know what I mean? There’s a couple of things we’ve got to get better at. We’ve got to take care of the ball, take some charges. That’s what we’re going to do in practice tomorrow.”
As is typical in this meat grinder of a district, Connally (20-10 overall, 6-1 in 17-4A) had a tussle on its hands from the jump. The plucky Leopards trailed by only five at 20-15 at the half, then opened the third quarter on a 7-2 run to tie the score at 22.
“I was getting worried,” Snell admitted.
The Cadets responded. Connally answered with a 6-0 run, keyed by a Sidney Hadden steal and layin and a Devin Miles putback of his own miss. The Cadets never trailed again, and actually only extended the gap as they began to harass the Leopards (19-8, 3-4) into some throwaway turnovers.
Connally’s gym is well-guarded, and it’s not just the security officers on hand. The Cadets start the past two Super Centex newcomers of the year in the backcourt in juniors Trajan Snell, the head coach’s son, and Sidney Hadden.
Both had somewhat subdued scoring nights, as Hadden scored nine points and Snell put up eight, but they aided the win in other ways. The 6-foot-2 Hadden won the center jump at the start of the game, and used his length on the perimeter to put pressure on the Lorena ballhandlers.
Meanwhile, Trajan Snell’s penchant for passing paid off, as he spoon-fed his teammates for a number of open shots. Snell assisted on five of his team’s six buckets in the fourth quarter, as they built a double-digit lead, and finished with nine dimes on the night.
Lorena stayed right in it for 31/2 quarters. The Leopards made Connally work for every bucket, and capitalized from aggressive forays to the basket from guards Ryan Siler (10 points), Ben Johnston (9) and Garrett Goolsby (7).
“We just tried to stay with the course, try to stay with what we’re trying to accomplish with these guys,” Quentin Snell said. “I feel like Lorena has one of the man-to-man defenses around. They’re really, really good. They’re solid. They do a good job of helping. Coach (Matt) Jackson is doing a great job over there with those guys. I think they have a bright future with him as their head coach.
“But we were just trying to maintain what we were trying to accomplish out there. We were able to hit some shots.”
Connally’s JeJuan Forward topped all scorers with 12 points, and Miles added 10 for the Cadets.