It must’ve been a long week for the New Waverly boys basketball squad, having to wait anxiously to play in the school’s first state tournament game.

The third-ranked Bulldogs square off against Region I champ, the Jim Ned Indians of Tuscola, in the first Class 2A semifinal game at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin today.

While playing in the state tournament is a first for New Waverly, the Dogs (35-2) are not satisfied with only making it to Austin. At this level, they need no motivation, but they’re getting a fair amount from the hometown fans.

“As soon as we walk into the school,” senior Alex Brown said, “teachers come up to us telling us to keep our heads in the game and ask us if we’re ready. We are.

“Everybody in New Waverly talks about us now. It’s pretty cool.”

But the support and motivation doesn’t stop there for the New Waverly heroes.

“Throughout the season, people told us that they already ordered their rooms for state,” sophomore X’Zavious Harrison said. “That put a little pressure on us. So, we had to play a little harder. Some games we started out slow, but they stuck behind us and we’ve gotten better.”

The Indians (28-7), despite being the only Class 2A team in the state tournament that is unranked, present a tough challenge for New Waverly.

“They’re a very athletic team, just like us,” New Waverly coach Billy Goffney said Tuesday. “They run up and down the floor. They press you in different ways. They shoot and rebound well. They don’t let teams get going on the fast break.

“So, they come at you a bunch of different ways. They have a very deep bench, so it’s kind of like playing ourselves”

Besides having to face a good Jim Ned team, the Bulldogs have a couple of different challenges like playing early in the morning and in a bigger arena, which are two different settings than the Dogs are used to.

But with a little help, Goffney was able to address the issues this week.

“(Sam Houston State) coach (Bob) Marlin has really helped us out this week,” Goffney said. “He arranged for us to use Johnson Coliseum a couple of mornings. We’ve come in a few times at 6:30 in the morning and have had some good workouts. Getting to practice in a bigger arena with more air also helped us prepare to play at Erwin.

“So now having worked on those two areas, I don’t think playing early or in a big place will affect us too much and be too much of a factor.”

A victory and the Bulldogs will face the Arp/Ponder winner on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the state championship game.

Tipoff for today’s semifinal game is 8:30 a.m.

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