Washington won’t get rattled by debut trip to UIL semifinal stage
When he steps on the court at the Alamodome on Friday afternoon, Booker T. Washington forward Kenneth Lewis will only have one thing on his mind.
“Going 2-0 and getting that state championship,” the senior said.
The goal this week is simple for Lewis and his teammates, who are part of the first team from Washington to compete at the UIL state tournament. The Golden Eagles are hoping to capture the program’s first title since claiming the Prairie View Interscholastic League Class 4A crown in 1946.
No. 4 state-ranked Washington (28-7) will take on No. 7 Boerne (32-5) at 3 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. Boerne has won 24 consecutive games and knocked off No. 9 Stafford to claim the Region IV championship.
“Everybody at state is good,” Washington coach Vincent Grayson said. “We can’t take anybody lightly, and they can’t take us lightly. But everybody down there is good. This is Boerne’s third time in a row going to state. They have a rich history of getting down there, so the bright lights aren’t going to bother them. This is our first time down there, and it’s going to be a competitive game. I don’t care what people are saying — it’s going to be a competitive game, and I just hope we can come out on top.”
On a roll
Washington has a stacked résumé this season, to say the least. The Golden Eagles have won 20 consecutive games and have not lost since Dec. 19 against district rival Furr.
Washington has plenty of benchmark wins. Most notably, the Golden Eagles are the only team to beat Beaumont United, the Region III-6A champion that is ranked No. 18 in the country by USA Today.
Washington also defeated Class 6A playoff teams Stratford and Dawson as well as the SPC champion Houston Christian. The Golden Eagles cleared their two biggest postseason hurdles with victories over No. 18 Center and No. 3 Silsbee at the Region III-4A tournament.
“When we get under the big lights now, they handle themselves pretty well,” Grayson said. “They stay the course, and they stay focused.”
Three of the team’s seven losses came against outof-state competition, and two more came against Class 6A programs Clear Falls and Langham Creek, both of which were playoff teams. The only other setback came in the season opener against a team the Golden Eagles might play Saturday for the state title — No. 1 Oak Cliff Faith Family Academy (31-3) from Dallas. Faith Family earned an 80-70 win over Washington on Nov. 11.
Faith Family will take on No. 17 Amarillo Randall (28-9) in the other semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Friday. The state title game is 7 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ve been battle tested,” Grayson said. “We started off the first game against Faith Family, the defending state champions. We were up 15, and they came back and beat us by 10. After that game, their coach (Brandon Thomas) said, ‘Grayson, I’ll see you in San Antonio.’ ”
Washington has scored 100-plus points eight times this year and tallied 90plus in three of their playoff games. The Golden Eagles have plenty of firepower on their roster, starting with the leading scorers.
Lewis and junior Chris McDermott — who tower at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7, respectively — were both All-Greater Houston selections last season and are averaging nearly 20 points per game this year.
Lewis has committed to Prairie View A&M, and McDermott has offers from Texas A&M, Georgetown and Mississippi, among others.
But the talent doesn’t stop there. Senior point guard Andre Walker II is a savvy court general, and junior guard Odis Carter Jr. has given the team a dynamic third scorer.
Sophomore Sam Johnson and senior Davien Smith — who Grayson described as the “heart and soul of our team” — have also been key contributors.
“We have guys that do different things, and they respect each other,” Grayson said. “They love basketball, they love the gym and then they’re some good kids. After practice, we’ll come sit in my office and we’ll be here until 8 o’clock, just sitting around talking, like a family. That’s what makes this group special — they love each other.”