For longtime junior college basketball fans, Wednesday’s game at Wagstaff Gymnasium will be bittersweet.
Rivals Tyler Junior College and San Jacinto College, two of the bluebloods in NJCAA basketball, will tangle on the hardcourt for perhaps the last time.
In October, it was announced most of the athletic programs at the San Jacinto campuses will be phased out, including the Central campus in Pasadena which houses the men’s highly successful basketball programs.
The decision was made official on Nov. 7 when the San Jacinto College Board of Trustees passed the resolution to help with finances.
Only the baseball program at the North campus and softball at the South campus will be retained. Both the North and South campuses are in Houston. Soccer at the South campus and women’s basketball at the North campus will also eventually be shut down.
For the Central campus programs, the plan is to keep both volleyball and basketball going through this season and the 2017-2018 season before officially shutting them down.
While the Apaches and Ravens could play later this year in the Region XIV Tournament in Jacksonville and next year in Pasadena, this is it as far as the Rose City.
TJC and San Jacinto began playing each other in 1961 when the East Harris County school was founded. There were times when you had to get early to gym to get a seat. Students would even climb in the windows to get see the game. It was fast-paced and high-scoring when a shot clock was not needed.
There were legendary coaches on the sideline and immense talent on the court.
The coaches were stalwarts from Tyler’s Floyd Wagstaff to Ned Fowler to Roy Thomas to current coach Mike Marquis and from San Jac’s Ronnie Arrow to Scott Gernander to current coach Scott R. Gernander.
There have been so many All-Americans and NBA standouts - Tyler’s Jimmy Butler, Robert Pack, Sam Mack, Poo Welch and San Jac’s Steve Francis, Walter Berry, Sam Cassell, Ollie Mack - to name a few.
That rivalry is renewed Wednesday when the two unbeatens and ranked teams tangle at Wagstaff Gymnasium. The TJC women and Paris play at 5:30 p.m., followed by the TJC men and San Jac at 7:30 p.m.
Fans can expect a shootout as the Ravens are averaging right at 100.0 points per game, while TJC is averaging 88.9.
Marquis’ Apaches are one of the most entertaining teams to watch, led by the point guard play of Brian Warren (5-11 freshman, Indianapolis).
Other guards are Kwinton Hinson (6-4 sophomore, Fairmont, North Carolina), Jaqwan McCauley (6-6 sophomore, Greensboro, North Carolina), TiAndre Jackson (6-4 freshman, Marshall) and Desmond Balentine (6-0 freshman guard, Kokomo, Indiana).
They have the inside presence of Eden Ewing (6-8 sophomore forward, Houston), Will Brooks (6-11 freshman post, Los Angeles), Davante Cooper (6-11 sophomore post, Atlanta, Georgia), Tajuan Agee (6-8 freshman forward, Chicago) and Trenton Sandifer (6-7 sophomore forward, Lewisville).
Both teams have four players averaging in double figure scoring. The Apaches are led by Hinson (16.5). He is followed by McCauley (13.9), Ewing (12.8) and Warren (11.5).
Cooper, a transfer from Bradley, leads in rebounding at 7.3. Brooks (6.7) and Ewing (6.5) are next in line.
Warren is averaging 5.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
The Ravens are paced by 6-1 sophomore guard Jorden Duffy (18.3 ppg, Upper Marlboro, Maryland) with 6-2 sophomore guard Corey Davis (17.6, Lafayette, Louisiana), 6-1 freshman guard Tay Hardy (11.7, Natchitoches, Louisiana) and 6-5 freshman guard Kabir Mohammed (10.9, Lagos, Nigeria) right behind.
Mohammed, a transfer from The Citadel, is averaging a near double-double as he grabs 9.1 rebounds per game.
Davis and Duffy are dishing out 4.4 and 4.2 assists per game.
You will see almost 100 percent of the players on the next level as well. TJC’s Ewing (Purdue), Hinson (Washington State), Cooper (Washington State) and McCauley (Morehead State) have already signed with D-I schools.
So expect a few dunks, a few blocks and a lot scoring, along with a little reminiscing Wednesday night.