SAN ANTONIO – West Texas earned its first-ever state championship from an unlikely source – a sophomore guard who sank one field goal and one free throw the day before.
Jonah Villanueva drained six 3-pointers and led all scorers with 22 points to carry the Comanches to a 61-55 victory over Thorndale in the UIL Class 2A state championship game Saturday at the Alamodome.
“Tonight was the night I felt that I needed to get it done,” said Villanueva, who was named the game’s MVP. “I usually don’t shoot more than once or twice, but tonight I felt that I needed to shoot.”
Villanueva made 7 of 11 shots from the field, including 6 of 10 from the 3-point arc. He made the biggest impact in the third quarter when he made all four of his attempts from the field, including three from downtown. That helped the Comanches (36-2) expand their 24-21 halftime lead to 44-36 heading into the fourth quarter.
“There’s ice in his veins,” West Texas sophomore forward Jalin Conyers said of Villanueva.
Saturday’s performance was markedly different Friday when Villanueva made 1 of 5 shots from the field and 1 of 4 free throws in the Comanches’ 70-60 victory against Shelbyville in the semifinals.
On Saturday, Villanueva opened West Texas’ scoring with a 3-pointer, but then he missed his next attempt. He looked back at Comanches coach Aron Graves for guidance.
“Coach told me to shoot it, and they started falling,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva’s next missed shot occurred at the 3:22 mark of the fourth quarter with the Comanches holding a 52-44 lead.
“He doesn’t get enough credit,” Graves said of Villanueva. “This kid can flat out shoot the ball. He just needs to be a little more confident, and he was today.”
Villanueva’s shooting helped revive a cold offense that accounted for only one basket in 10 attempts in the second quarter. Luckily, for the Comanches, Thorndale struggled nearly as much as the Bulldogs sank just 3 of 12 from the field in the second.
West Texas changed their shooting fortunes in the third quarter as they shot out to a 36-25 lead three minutes into the period.
“We talked about, at halftime, getting into our offense a little quicker,” Graves said. “We try to push the ball and play up-tempo. That’s one thing we’ve done a great job with all year. I thought once we got into half-court, we were pretty stagnant and slow.”
Once the Comanches created some separation, it was difficult for Thorndale to make it up.
“It is tough when you get down a little bit to keep fighting back,” Thorndale coach John Kovar said. “Yeah, they hit a few shots. They’re just so big, and you have so much to do with double-downs and helps, that helps some people with open shots.”
Thorndale (34-4) still made a final push despite trailing by 11 midway through the third quarter.
The Bulldogs chopped West Texas’ lead to 54-52 following a 3-pointer by Ashton Albert with 1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Comanches secured the game by making 7 of 12 free throws the rest of the way.
Conyers added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Gage Cassidy had 13 points.
Thorndale was led by Ty Prince’s 16 points. Albert and Sam Reeves each had 13.
“This is a dream come true,” Graves said. “It’s hard to explain. I couldn’t be a better place. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere. It’s just unreal.”
West Texas High 61, Thorndale 55
Thorndale (34-4): Logan Fisher 3-4, 0-0 6, Ty Prince 8-13 0-0 16, Ashton Albert 6-12 1-3 13, Mason Fisher 1-2 0-1 2, Sam Reeves 2-10 8-10 13, Lance Niemtschk 2-3 0-0 5, Scott Guzman 0-0 0-0 0, Jesus Hernandez 0-0 0-0 0 Ashton Schaeffer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 22-45 8-10.
West Texas High (36-2): Jalin Conyers 1-5 8-13 10, Gage Cassity 5-7 2-4 13, Dalin Williams 4-4 0-0 8, Jeffery Jefferson 3-7 1-6 7, Jonah Villanueva 7-11 2-2 22, Matthew Freriks 0-2 1-2 1, Jordan Seay 0-2 0-0 0, Mason Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-38 14-27.
3-point goals: Thorndale 3-12 (Prince 0-2, Albert 1-3, Fisher 0-1, Reeves 1-4, Niemtschk 1-2), WT High 7-18 (Jefferson 0-1, Cassity 1-3, Villanueva 6-10, Freriks 0-2, Seay 0-2). Total fouls: Thorndale 21, WT High 12. Fouled out: Prince, Albert. Technicals: Thorndale bench. Attendance: 11,873.