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March 13, 2010
No. 1 Yates proves why it's best in nation
Houston (Texas) Yates didn't get 100 points.
But the No.1 team in the RivalsHigh boys basketball rankings did get quite a scare Saturday before winning the Texas Class 4A title game over Lancaster (Texas) High, 92-73.
Don't let the final score fool you. The victory, before a state tournament record crowd of 16,755 at the Frank Erwin Center on the campus of the University of Texas, was a tough battle. Yates trailed midway into the final quarter before using a late 19-0 run to put the game away.
The win, the school's 34th straight this season and 58th consecutive overall, figures to lock up the top spot in the final RivalsHigh rankings. But don't expect it to quell the controversy surrounding the school.
Its national-record 15 consecutive games of 100 points or more is over, but the debate about the team - are they super scorers or just unsportsmanlike? - figures to go on.
"When you know in your heart what you're doing, it doesn't matter what people say," Yates coach Greg Wise told The Houston Chronicle (read its coverage here). "The people who know us and know the kids know what kind of people we are.
"All the (criticism) did was draw us closer together and make us stronger."
Yates rolled early, grabbing a 39-27 lead midway through the second quarter. Lancaster, however, refused to roll over, pulled close and then stunned most of the crowd when it took a 72-71 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The question was: How would Yates respond? It hadn't had played a close game since December.
Wise wasn't worried.
"We wanted to stay focused," he said, "and we figured somewhere in the fourth quarter, we'd make a run."
The effort by Joseph Young at the end of the gmae told the story.
Young was on the floor for several minutes after getting hit to the face midway through the fourth quarter. He was able to get up and jog to the bench, but moments later had to be helped to the locker room. He returned to a big ovation, and just in time.
"I didn't know where I was. I couldn't see anything or hear anything," Young said. "I just knew I wanted to get back out there. They tried to strap me down, but I ran out of there."
With Yates clinging to a 73-72 lead, Young buried a 3-pointer from the left wing. Seconds later he hit one from the right side. Suddenly, it was 79-72.
When Brandon Peters, who finished with a game-high 37, added a basket to give Yates an 81-72 edge with 2:46 left, all that was left was the final score - and whether the team would get 100 points one more time.
All season long, how Yates wins has been as big a story as the victory itself.
The team received national headlines - many for the wrong reasons - when it scored 100 points in the first half of what became a 170-35 victory over Lee High School on Jan. 5. The game made the school the poster child for sportsmanship issues.
National columnists took various points of view. Some called it the ultimate act of poor sportsmanship, others said the school was so good it could compete against college teams. Locally, The Houston Chronicle said the team's play was a good thing - a positive for a school with low graduation rates based in an economically depressed area.
Ironically, the school drew more attention when it didn't score 100 points. At the end of a 94-64 victory over Westbury High on Jan. 20, Yates began fouling its opponent, putting it at the line.
Critics said the tactic was used to get more possessions and thus a chance at 100, Wise laughed at the idea, telling RivalsHigh the school was merely practicing for end-game scenarios it may have down the line. And he said if he wanted 100, he wouldn't have pulled his starters so early in the game.
Thursday night, the team broke the 40-year-old record for consecutive games of over 100 points in a 106-76 victory over The Colony.
The scoring numbers are impressive.
But Saturday's game wasn't about pulling starter or even getting 100 points. It was about a second straight state title, something the school accomplished not because it's a high-scoring team but rather because it's a very good one.