Saxton shines as Wildcats handle Northbrook 66-29

Sophomore point man Grant Saxton dropped 17 points as varsity basketball got their first win of the season.

Sophomore+Grant+Saxon+throws+up+a+floater+in+the+Wildcats+66-29+victory+over+Northbrook.+Saxton+led+the+Wildcats+in+scoring+in+his+third+game+as+a+varsity+player.

Adeen Rao

Sophomore Grant Saxon throws up a floater in the Wildcats 66-29 victory over Northbrook. Saxton led the Wildcats in scoring in his third game as a varsity player.

Adeen Rao, Staff Writer

The Wildcats boys basketball team entered their home opener vs. the Northbrook Raiders (0-1) Tuesday on a two game losing skid.

Earlier this week, Wildcats Head Coach Matt Bailey alluded to the importance of winning and its role in creating buzz around a program.

“We have got to win basketball games,” Bailey said. “That’s the bottom line. People aren’t going to come if we don’t win basketball games.”

Bailey’s team took one more step towards that endeavor in a 66-29 win over the Raiders, extending their streak over the Raiders to seven straight, dating back to the 2012-13 season. Tomball Memorial is now 1-2, as they look to hone their claws for games with state playoff implications when district play rolls around on January 9.

Bailey referenced players on his team this year to look out for in terms of making an impact, some of them are old faces from his varsity team last season, and some of them are new faces brought in from the Freshman team that went 25-4 and won the district last year.

“Sophomores Grant Saxton and Judson Thompson, look out for both of them,” Bailey said. “In terms of returning players, Cory Reese and Derek Montross, both of them have spent a year in my system and they know what I am looking for on the court.”

All four of those names racked up double digits in the points category Tuesday night, as the group accounted for 52 of the Wildcats 66 points. Tomball Memorial shot 50% on the night, 13% from three-point range, and 57% from the free throw line. They outrebounded the Raiders 33-21, with a fair share of that number coming from second and even third chance opportunities on offense. Starting center Cory Reese picked up 10 points, with the majority of them coming from second chance opportunities in the paint.

Northbrook had six players dressed for the game, as opposed to the Wildcats 11. Bailey referenced controlling the tempo of the game as far as his plan for the team’s structure was concerned prior to the season.

“We want to force the other team to change their plan, [and] make them uncomfortable,” said Bailey. “If we run a 2-2-1 their guards aren’t going to expect the trap right after we score a bucket.”

The Wildcats looked to exploit the Raiders lack of depth immediately, starting off the game in a 2-2-1 trap defense. The Raiders opened the game with a heave from downtown that gave them their only lead of the entire game, but despite their failure to keep the Raiders off the board on their first possession the Wildcats stuck to their philosophy, a philosophy that generated 19 Wildcat steals throughout the game.

“[Bailey’s] a great coach and knows his stuff,” Saxton said. “He knows when to press and when to not.”

Saxton, a sophomore point guard, made his debut as a varsity player alongside fellow sophomore power forward Judson Thompson.

The coaching staff planned to experiment with a few offenses in this game mainly because scoring has not been their strong suit in the season so far, as they entered the game averaging 42.5 points per game. Coach Bailey’s group started off with a 4-out-1-in motion offense and then switched between the Gonzaga pick and roll offense and the Kansas high-low offense as their lead extended in the latter stages of the game.

“I believe 4-out-1-in is the best,” Saxton said. “This is a recent play we added and it has worked well so far.”

The Tomball Memorial faithful are looking for progress within the program, one of the main reasons Bailey was hired before the 2019-20 season to coach the team in the first place was his track record of building less than 500 programs into winning programs. The Wildcats showed visible signs of progress in Tuesday’s win, as they beat Northbrook by 19 points last season, and they nearly doubled that margin in the latest installment of the Wildcats vs. Raiders history.

UP NEXT: A non-district away matchup vs Oak Ridge (1-1) Friday Nov. 20 at 6 p.m.