Rivals learn how to be teammates for Pineywoods Showdown: 'It's been weird'

  We are days away from the Pineywoods Showdown where the best senior basketball players from Nacogdoches and Angelina County team up, and battle it out while representing their counties and playing for charity.

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's clear these athletes are natural born competitors and have made rivals competing against each other in high school.

Now, many of them find themselves having to call their former rivals, their teammates.

For the boys teams, the rivalries are just as strong.

"Chase Ponson and Mitchell England were my rivals," said Logan Nerren from Huntington.

"The Central guys, and Logan Nerren from Huntington, we were big rivals," said Mitchell England from Hudson.

"Mitchell England was one of my rivals," said Chase Ponson from Central. "When we played them, he kind of yelled when he got an AND 1 and I shouldered him a little bit."

This year's head coach for the Angelina boys is Lufkin head basketball coach JT McManus. His job is to bring rivals together, and make a cohesive team.

"The biggest thing is keeping them under control because they're not totally familiar with each other, and not totally familiar offensively, or defensively with what we will run," said McManus.

The same transition of rivals to teammates is also happening in the Nacogdoches county for the boys.

"Some of these kids I grew up with. Some of them I played in summer leagues against," said Brandon Alvis from Chireno. "It's going to be fun to see what we can do as a team. "

There will also be an interesting dynamic within the Nacogdoches boy's team, as Dayna Westbrook from Douglass will be the first woman to ever coach the boys team.

"I enjoy getting the chance to coach these guys. I've been able to see them grow up through my son's high school careers and we competed against several of them," said Dayna. "It's fun to be able to get them all out here together and work them out a few times before the game."

Her son Bryce Westbrook has played under his mom an entire basketball season now, and will have one last game with his mom.

"Her yelling at me is nothing new," said Bryce. "I faced it for 18 years now, so it wasn't anything different."

Despite the former rivalries, the boys of Angelina and Nacogdoches County know it's time to set their differences aside, and just play basketball.

"Most of us have played each other and I'm not going to lie, we talked some mess here and there, but we got over it," said Ponson. "On the court we're different than off the court. It's going to be fun."

The Pineywoods Showdown will be at Central Heights High School in Nacogdoches, this Thursday. The girls start their game at 6 p.m. and the boys will start immediately after. Admission is $5 at the door. Children ages 5 and under get in free.

"None of us liked each other playing against each other," said Katie Davis from Huntington. "If you're playing basketball, you don't like who you play against."

"It's been weird playing with my former rivals," said Lexxus Hamilton from Diboll.

It's not everyday you're having to play alongside a rival instead of playing against them, and for many of the Angelina County girls, they haven't forgotten past experiences with those rivals they are now having to call teammates.

"Katy from Huntington, yeah we were rivals," said Hamilton.

"Me and Lexxus have played since little dribblers together and we have always been going back and forth with each other," said Davis. "Me and Shelby Finch get rough on the court too."

"Lexxus from Diboll was my rival because their school was our real big rivals this year," said Sara Gunter from Central.

Now it's up to Laura Jones from Diboll to coach the Angelina girls this year and make these rivals one unit.

"Their really good players so that makes it easy. The better they are, the better it is," said Jones.  "The big thing is that you got to get them talking to each other and communicating. They obviously can all play so it's easy to coach them. You just got to get them playing together."

The girls of Angelina say they have managed to come together, and the Nacogdoches girls have had to go through the same steps with Central Heights Coach Ashley Brown.

"I was so impressed because they're such good kids," said Brown. "They're open to learning and to coming together, and they've been awesome."

The Nacogdoches girls are just as familiar with each other.

"I've played against all of them throughout high school so this has been a different experience," said Lauren Lee from Chireno.

All of the Nacogdoches girls have one goal in mind, and they say it's brought them together.

"I always go into every game wanting to win," said Brown.

"Winning is the goal," said Emauzja Johnson from Nacogdoches.

"I want to win," said Mackenzie Tucker from Cushing. "We're going to win."

Each team will play for a charity, with the winning team's charity getting proceeds from the gate.

Below are the coaches, charities and rosters for the game:

Angelina girls:

Coached by Laura Jones of Diboll

Playing for Boys & Girls Club of Diboll and Lufkin

2 Sara Gunter, Central

3 Lexxus Hamilton, Diboll

4 Katie Davis, Huntington

10 Paige Funderburk, Hudson

12 Tiara Robinson Lufkin

14 Ciara Harrison, Lufkin

20 Latisha Collins, Lufkin

22 Madison Selman, Hudson

23 Maddison Graham, Huntington

24 Jessica Gillespie, Huntington

25 Shelby Finch, Central

33 Caitlyn Lamber, Zavalla

Angelina boys:

Coached by JT McManus of Lufkin

Playing for Harold's House

2 Brandon Mitchell, Diboll

3 Logan Nerren, Huntington

4 JaMarcus Horace, Lufkin

10 Sammy Scott, Diboll

11 Davis Robinson, Lufkin

12 Jalil Jones, Pineywoods Academy

13 Michael Day, Zavalla

15 DJ Gibson, Lufkin

23 Mitchell England, Hudson

24 Chase Ponson, Central

25 George Brown, Central

32 Brandon Carver, Central

Nacogdoches girls:

Coached by Ashley Brown of Central Heights

Playing for Godtel

1 Nacogoches Emauzja Johnson

2 Jasia Berry, Garrison

3 Christy Whitaker, Nacogdoches

5 Hannah Kimbrough, Garrison

20 Kasha Grigsby, Nacogdoches

23 Mackenzie Tucker, Cushing

24 Claire Pinkston, Woden

32 Justice Lockett, Chireno

45 Lauren Lee, Chireno

Nacogdoches boys:

Coached by Dayna Westbrook, Douglass

Playing for Glory Gang Ministries

3 Kwa Jones, Nacogdoches

5 Patrick Sanders, Nacogdoches

10 Lane Williams, Cushing

11 William Rogers, Garrison

12 Bryce Westbrook, Douglass

13 Josh Johnson, Woden

22 LJ Barnes, Nacogdoches

23 Tanner Garner, Central Heights

25 Keaton Foteno, Central Heights

33 Brandon Alvis, Chireno

34 Tim Ham, Douglass

50 James Hill, Martinsville

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