FM Marcus bests Naaman Forest in state semis

AUSTIN, Texas -- To Flower Mound Marcus standout Marcus Smart, Friday’s 59-34 Class 5A state semifinal win over Metroplex neighbor Garland Naaman Forest was a statement.

Holding Naaman Forest (29-8) to just five points in the first quarter was just a small reminder to the crowd at the Frank Erwin Center.

“There’s been a lot of trash talking going on that we heard from their crowd," Smart said. "They act like they deserve to be here and they were supposed to beat us. We have total respect for that team and that coaching staff, they have all the right to have their confidence, but they left out one part -- that we’re the defending state champions and not only that -- we’re the No. 1 defense in the state of Texas.”

Smart and his teammates backed that up, putting up 7-0 and 6-0 runs to start both quarters of the first half. Naaman Forest failed to move past the five-point mark until there were just two minutes left in the half. Naaman Forest finished the game shooting just 25.5 percent.

Marcus (38-2) limited Naaman Forest’s 6-foot-11 center Prince Ibeh to six points, seven rebounds and no blocks, thanks mostly to senior forward Nick Banyard’s defensive effort. Banyard said after the game he was glad he could contribute on the defensive side of the ball after a slow game on offense.

“I had to do something right on the court because offensively, I wasn’t very good,” Banyard said “I had to pick it up defensively.”

Banyard finished with six points and five rebounds, but made every point count on three huge dunks.

By the fourth quarter, the game was easily out of hand, allowing the Marauders to have a little fun before Saturday’s state final match. Smart fed Banyard on a couple of alley-oop dunks and then took a few of his own to the rack with authority.

Banyard said the fun ending to the semifinal game will help him going into Saturday.

“Having fun is my No. 1 thing,” Banyard said. “At the beginning of the game when people are serious -- that’s really not me. I’m never the one that’s just locked in -- I’m always just trying to have a good time and get loose.”

Banyard and Marcus will need to be loose going into their state championship matchup against Fort Bend Travis and the Harrison twins at 8:30 p.m. Aaron Harrison put on a scoring clinic in Travis’ semifinal game against Northside Warren, picking up 30 points in the win.

Smart had all the confidence in the world after Friday night’s win, but even the No. 12 recruit in the nation will have a few butterflies before his bid for a second straight state title.

“Any kid that says they come out to a big game like this and says they’re not nervous is a liar,” Smart said. “You’ve got little pregame jitters but it’s just how you cope with it.”