Battle for El Paso: Andress and Eastwood square off with Sweet 16 on the line

High School Sports

EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – Historically, they hold an argument as El Paso’s most successful basketball programs. Eastwood owns the city’s only state championship, while No. 14 Andress has made the Final 4, plus six regional tournaments under Sun City legend Jim Forbes.

On Tuesday, the Eagles and Troopers will battle for a spot in the Class 5A Sweet 16 in an all-El Paso regional quarterfinal clash at 7 p.m. at Bel Air that should live up to the billing.

El Paso’s pair of 5A district champions never met in the regular season, so perhaps it’s fitting that they get to play for city bragging rights on Tuesday.

“I think it’s amazing. I think it shows you what El Paso basketball has been and is becoming. You’ve had teams go to the Elite 8, the Final 4,” Eastwood head coach Peter Morales said.

An all-El Paso Regional Quarterfinal doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it draws fans like few other events in town can.

“When we played Bel Air in 2015, it was 10,000 people at the Haskins Center,” Andress head coach Jim Forbes said. “It says a lot that you have two district champions from this area battling for that spot.”

The 30-3 Eagles and the 28-7 Troopers had similar paths to Tuesday’s winner-take-all clash. They both had to survive a pair of heart-stopping wins in rounds one and two.

Andress survived Ysleta in the Bi-District round, before outscoring Lubbock Monterey 10-0 in the last five minutes to come back and advance to round three.

“Coach told us we needed to wake up and start playing our game, not playing into the other team’s game, because that’s what they want us to do. If we play our game, we’ll always be ahead of teams,” Andress senior guard Devonte Owens said.

Meanwhile, Eastwood pushed through an off-night against Burges in round one, before getting a measure of revenge in the Area round against the same Palo Duro team that beat them in 2019.

“It meant a lot. We prepared for it. We worked hard every day just to beat them,” Eastwood senior guard Brandon Reyes said.

For a young Andress team, a win over Eastwood would mean a return to the regional tournament for the fifth time in the last decade.

“I don’t think these kids have gotten enough credit for what they’ve accomplished. This group of kids with 5 sophomores have won 30 games,” Forbes said.

Recent success has been a constant at Andress, but Eastwood hasn’t seen as much of it in recent years, last reaching the Regional Quarterfinals in 2014. The Troopers are trying to get coach Peter Morales back to the regional tournament, which he’s done once before with Bowie.

“It would mean everything to these kids because in some of our preseason huddles I would talk about that Bowie team a lot,” Morales said. “They asked me when I was going to stop talking about Bowie and I said, ‘you want me to stop talking, let’s make a Sweet 16 run.'”

With the Sweet 16 up for grabs, the Troopers and Eagles will square off in front of a packed house Tuesday night at Bel Air.

They’re not the only El Paso-area team playing in the Regional Quarterfinals on Tuesday. Class 4A No. 9 Clint will play Levelland on Tuesday at 5 p.m. MT in Monahans, looking to advance to the Sweet 16.

Levelland beat the Lions by two points a season ago in the same round, and in the same gym, so Clint will be looking for revenge. KTSM will be on the road with the Lions on Tuesday night to cover what Clint hopes is a victory to advance to the Class 4A Regional Tournament.

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