Memorial Vipers having a ball
Back home in Victoria, Texas, the Memorial High School boys basketball team is accustomed to success on the court.
The Vipers are a long way from home playing in Douglas High School’s Carson Valley Classic, yet they’re still enjoying success, and a whole lot more.
Memorial won its tournament opener Thursday night 78-60 over Rancho Cotati (Sonoma, Calif.) to advance to the semifinals. Perhaps just as exciting, though, were the sights they had a chance to take in earlier in the day at Lake Tahoe.
“We’re having a blast,” said junior guard Jeremy Thomas. “We went up and saw some snow today and we went on boat tours. I mean, a lot of us have never seen snow before. We haven’t seen the mountains or any of this.”
This is the first visit to Nevada for the basketball program at Memorial, a school of 3,800 students (classes are divided on two campuses) in a city of about 60,000 centrally located near the Gulf of Mexico between Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
“I’m enjoying just sitting back and seeing all the wonderful things about Nevada,” said Bennie Stanley, a fourth-year veteran of Memorial’s varsity. “This is a lot different than Texas. We’ll go out again tomorrow (Friday). We don’t play until 8 o’clock, so we’re going to have some fun doing some more sightseeing and some shopping.”
Having already taken in the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe sights, the group plans to visit Carson City and Virginia City today.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” said 6-foot-7 senior center J.D. Holzheauser. “I’m just happy to be here with my teammates and to be able to come out here and enjoy the scenery.”
Wednesday turned into a long day for the team and a supportive group of parents who made the trip. They flew out of Victoria at 3:45 a.m. (CDT), then after stops in Austin and Houston, they arrived in Reno later that afternoon.
Then, of course, they played a basketball game at Galena that same night. Though there were signs of weary legs, the Vipers still managed to dig down and pull out a 64-61 win over the traditionally strong Grizzlies.
“We showed some signs of travel; we missed a lot of easy shots, turned the ball over,” Memorial coach John Grammer said. “But we had to make some defensive stops and some big rebounds down the stretch, and that was good.”
Stanley, a 6-foot forward, scored all nine of his points in the fourth quarter to supply the Vipers with a boost down the stretch. A week ago at this time, though, Stanley was recovering from a loss on the football field to Converse-Judson in the quarterfinals of the Texas 5A playoffs.
“Monday was my first basketball practice, so I’m still a little rusty,” said Stanley, a standout receiver who has been clocked at 4.58 seconds for 40 yards. “I’m trying to find my rhythm.”
Holzheauser and Stanley were both honorable mention all-state selections last basketball season for the Vipers, who went 26-7 and reached the second round of the state playoffs.
“Our team was ranked No. 6 in the state last year, but I think we’re going to be better this year,” Holzheauser said. “I think we’re a better team, a smarter team with a lot more threats.”
Thursday, sophomore Jeremy Barnett scored 24 points and four players scored in double figures against Rancho Cotati. Holzheauser scored 14, Thomas 10 and Bo Matson 10.
While the Vipers improved their season record to 6-1 with that win, they’re looking for a lot more, and they’re hoping the Carson Valley Classic experience will help out.
“This is going to be a good experience for us,” Holzheauser said. “All of our playoff games are away from home, so we’re just trying to get in a rhythm, try, win some basketball games and get rolling in our district.
“The teams here play a lot different style of basketball than they do in Texas,” Holzheauser added, noting that like Nevada, Texas does not use a shot clock. “In Texas it’s more like run and gun. Here, it’s more slow; I think they like to slow down and run the offense more.”
This is a team looking to have success in March.
“We’re just happy to be able to come out here and play against some really good competition and try to work on our game so when we come back we want to try and make it to the state championship down there,” Thomas said.
In the meantime, the Vipers are having a lot of fun. But not too much fun.
“We’re having a lot of fun out here,” Thomas said. “But it’s a lot colder here than it is in Texas. We’re not used to this snow or anything. We’re just bundling up and trying to stay warm.”