By Bill Sorrell
One of the funniest things that has happened to Houston High School’s Kurt Couvion since he has become head basketball coach this season was taking his players to Topgolf.
To see them swing and miss a golf ball several times in a row made Couvion laugh.
He wasn’t laughing on Friday when the Mustangs missed shots in the fourth quarter as Germantown rebounded and made theirs to expand a 47-43 lead to a 57-43 district victory at Houston.
After a dunk by Houston’s Brock Vice the Red Devils reeled off 10 straight points including 7 free throws.
“I know that you have to make shots to win basketball games. I liked the shots that we got. We just can’t have multiple possessions where we turn the ball over and take shots that are not putting ourselves in the best situation to make them,” said Couvion. “When we turned the ball over in the fourth quarter three straight possessions it’s hard to come back from, especially when they capitalize on them in the 2-point game and it can go to 6 or 8 real quick. At this level the team that makes the most free throws and layups wins games.”
Vice said, “We took a few bad shots at the end and nothing would really fall. We couldn’t get anything to go down.”
The Red Devils made 12 of 20 free throws, 8 of 11 in the fourth quarter, while Houston made 9 of 15 free throws.
Germantown’s Anthony Medlock, who had a game-high 23 points, said, “This is a big-time win for us. This is a district away game which is a big deal. This is something that we needed and it’s good moving forward.”
In his first season as head coach at Germantown Rob Sabau said it was a great team win.
“Everybody contributed some part of it. The second half we moved the ball and we moved ourselves a lot better. The first half we were standing on offense dribbling too much. Our defense was pretty solid all night,” said Sabau, who coached five previous seasons at St. Benedict.
Vice said the Red Devils press was hard to break.
“We played hard. We struggled a little bit in the first half scoring and we struggled breaking the press through the whole game. We needed to dribble a little bit more and not dribble through the press but pass the ball through the press,” Vice said. “That press hurt us a little bit in the second half because we had three or four straight turnovers a few times there. That hurt us and they scored which gave them the lead toward the end.”
“We need to communicate better. We are still working on getting through the press and everything else. I learned that we are going to compete until it is over.”
Despite the loss Couvion said, “I thought tonight was our best team effort. Our team effort was good. I was proud of their effort. I thought they shared the ball really well which was a point of emphasis the last couple of days in practice.”
Sabau called his team “resilient and they want to be pushed. They are grinding out some road wins in the district.”
The win improved the Red Devils to 13-7, 5-2 in district. Houston fell to 8-12, 2-5 in district.
The Mustangs, who won the AAA state championship in the 2020-2021 season, have no seniors.
“It’s a whole new program for us, new person at the front. We’ve got kids that played middle school basketball last year. We got kids that were on a state championship team, players from not only this area but other kids that are in some of our leadership programs. We have got a mixed bag coming together and all play at different levels. Getting everybody on the same page is our first step and moving in the right direction. I think tonight we did a good job of doing that,” said Couvion.
The Red Devils have two seniors.
“We are fairly young. We had some good leadership from Raquon Williams, a senior, Chris Hodges and Anthony Medlock. Those guys we lean on,” said Sabau. Williams and Medlock are leading rebounders.
“D.J. Allen has come on really well lately. He has done a good job rebounding,” said Sabau. Medlock is the leading scorer. During a Christmas tournament game against Bolton Medlock, a junior, scored 42 points.
What aided Medlock’s game against Houston he said, “My coach told me to start passing and cutting so that is what I did. He said I was standing too still. That is why I was stagnant and was not getting the ball. So I started moving and trying to get my teammates open. It also made me open.”
The Mustangs are paced by Vice, a 6-10 junior who weighs 220 pounds. He is the leading rebounder averaging 10.5 per game and averages 21 points a game.
“I crash the boards and get rebounds with my height. I finish over people,” said Vice, who has been scouted by the University of Central Arkansas, St. Louis University, Belmont University.
“Our big guy (Vice) is getting a lot of interest,” said Couvion. “We seem to be playing in front of the right people and ultimately what that does, all the other guys on the team have opportunity every single night to show that they deserve for someone to come watch them play too.”
Couvion said that Vice “is taller than anybody else. He has got to learn to score the ball more efficiently in the paint and capitalize on opportunities when he is around the rim. He does a great job of being mobile. He has got to be a little bit stronger sometimes when he finishes and value the basketball underneath.
“Brock and Mav (junior Maverick Miller) are the leaders this season. They are the two that everyone looks up to lead this team where it ultimately needs to go.”
Medlock led the Red Devils to an 8-0 lead hitting a trey for his first score. A trey by Miller pulled the Mustangs within 8-7 but Medlock hit a 3-pointer on his next possession.
A basket by Kameron Clark and by Vice tied the game at 11. Free throws by Jacory Dixon gave Germantown a 13-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Two baskets by Hugh McFarland put the Red Devils ahead 17-11 but Houston tied it at 17 on free throws by Vice and two baskets by Ryan Mitchell with 4:01 left in the second quarter.
Hodges put the Red Devils back on top 19-17. Mitchell tied it again with two free throws. Medlock broke it with two free throws. Dixon’s basket gave Germantown a 23-20 halftime lead.
A dunk by Vice gave the Mustangs their first lead of the game, 24-23 with 6:38 left in the third quarter. A basket and free throw by Clark expanded the lead to 27-23. An alley-oop dunk by Vice put the Mustangs ahead 29-26. Miller gave Houston a 5-point lead, 31-26, with 4:39 left in the third.
Germantown then scored 10 straight points to take a 36-31 lead behind baskets by Dixon, Williams, Medlock plua Medlock’s trey and Dixon’s free throw.
Houston fought back to tie the game at 36 on goals by Jose Joiner and Anthony McKinley and a free throw by Kylan Clark.
After Dixon scored to put the Red Devils ahead 38-36, they never trailed again. Kaleb Jefferies’ trey gave the Red Devils a 45-39 lead.
Vice’s dunk narrowed the lead to 47-43, the last Houston points. Dixon scored the last basket for the Red Devis giving them a 49-43 lead. The last Germantown points were all on free throws by McFarland, Medlock, Williams, who also played on the Red Devils football team and will play Division 1 football but has not decided where. Medlock ended the game as he began it, scoring.
“Our defense picked up a lot today. That is one thing that we struggled in the past but today I felt like we were actually taking charges and we were moving and playing help and helper,” said Medlock, who has worked on his game by having 4 a.m. practices.
Sabau said that Dixon played well along with McFarland and Hodges.
“Chris Hodges had a couple of big plays toward the end there in the fourth quarter,” said Sabau, who also was pleased with the play of Medlock.
Sabau also thought the Red Devils’ energy level was higher.
Vice’s dunks increase the Mustangs energy level.
“It brings our team energy. It gets us rolling a little bit more. I feel like we play better as a team when that happens,” said Vice, who said that the change of coaches has not been a “big adjustment.”
Former NBA player and former University of Memphis assistant basketball coach Mike Miller was the head coach last year and led them to the state championship.
Vice said winning state “was a different experience than I have had before. It didn’t feel real when it happened.”
The Mustangs have a different roster this year.
“We are a very young. No seniors and we need some younger guys to step up and take control of the game. My goal is to keep getting better through these last district games and we have got to make a run in the state,” said Vice.
Vice, who wears a cross around his neck, said that he prays before every game and before he goes to bed at night. He believes that Jesus helps him play.
Couvion said that McKinley, a sophomore point guard, played one of his better games “if not the best game he has played for us in terms of getting the team organized and staying under control. I was really happy to see him make that progress so far this year.”
The Mustangs were making more shots earlier in the year said Couvion.
“The offense looks better when you make shots as opposed to missing shots. We have just go to get back in the gym and continue to work to move forward,” said Couvion, who wants to develop skills of his players.
“The people, the relationships that I get to build in the youth community (excites Couvion as head coach). My passion has always been skill development, especially at the youth level. Seeing kids develop is something I have always liked doing and this role ultimately is how well can I develop kids at a youth age and bring them through a program and ultimately get them to wherever it is they want to play.”
Vice led Houston scorers with 13 points. Kameron Clark scored 8, Miller 7, Mitchell 6, McKinley 4, Kylan Clark 3, Joiner 2.
Along with Medlock’s 23 points, Dixon scored 12, Williams 7, McFarland 7, Jefferies 3, Hodges 4.
Sabau said, “Any time you get a district win that is a good thing. We have got to continue to build on that.”
Said Medlock, “I think we can go all the way. I think the competition is very much balanced this year. It’s open for anybody to win. I feel like we are a great contender to win the game.”