BUDA – One year ago, the Cole boys basketball team had their shot at glory taken away from them.
The Cougars defeated Peaster 58-44 in the Class 3A State semifinals at the Alamodome on March 12, 2020 and clinched the program’s first appearance in the championship game since Shaquille O’Neal led them to the title in 1989.
Within hours of that victory, the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic forced the University Interscholastic League (UIL) to postpone, and eventually cancel, the remainder of the state tournament.
Now, on the exact anniversary of the shutdown, Cole will finally get their chance to play for a title.
Junior guards Trey Blackmore and Silas Livingston combined to score 40 points, powering the Cougars to a 59-50 victory over Little River Academy in the state semifinals on Tuesday night. Last season’s disappointment provided all of the motivation they needed to return to the Alamodome this year.
“It feels great,” Blackmore said. “We’re going back to the championship game, and we actually get to play it this year. I’m so proud. I love all of my guys. I love how we can come through in a tight game like this against a great team. It’s been a grind. Our motto is ‘Being built different.’ We just had to have that mindset every game -- playoffs, regular season, district -- every single game.”
.@RGC_BBasketball is moving on! For the second straight season, the Cole Cougars are heading to the #UILState Class 3A Championship Game! Highlights & reaction coming up tonight on #KSATsports at 10! @InstantReplaySA @TreyBuckets11 @SilasLivingsto2— Andrew Cely (@ACelySports) March 10, 2021
📹: @markmendez pic.twitter.com/ErcvDmOVUo
“It feels great man,” Livingston said. “It feels good to get to where we didn’t get to go last year. We worked hard all year. We practiced every day. Coach did a great job of coming up with a game plan with just a few days, and it really showed.”
“I got emotional at the end of the game,” said head coach Noe Cantu. “You never know if you’re going to get back to state or if you’re ever going to have a chance to get back to a state championship. Once the clock went down, I just realized we were going to win and got emotional as it set in.”
This year’s team is markedly different from the squad who qualified for the title game last season. Senior Jordyn Arnette graduated and currently plays for Western New Mexico University, while five-star recruit Vincent Iwuchukwu transferred to a high school in Indiana this past summer. Without those two offensive threats, Blackmore and Livingston have emerged as the Cougars’ dynamic duo, infusing this team with plenty of earned swagger.
“They’re just together and they’re confident,” Cantu explained. “They believe they’re going to win every single game they play. That’s what’s special about them. It doesn’t matter who is on their team, or who leaves or who comes and plays for them. They think they’re going to win every game.”
The Cougars will return to the Alamodome on Friday, March 12 to take on Tatum in the UIL Class 3A State Championship Game. Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m.