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March 11, 2012AUSTIN - They did it again.
Flower Mound Marcus has been the talk of Texas for the last three years led by good friends and future Oklahoma State teammates Marcus Smart and Phil Forte. The dynamic duo has combined for a 115-6 record in the last three years.
Win No. 115 may be the most memorable, as the seniors won their final game and defeated another dynamic duo in Fort Bend Travis' Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison. Marcus held off Travis, 56-52, in front of 10,088 rowdy fans at the Frank Erwin Center.
"Words can't even explain it," Smart said. "We talked about it, and most people had us picked to lose this game and our region. We just let it go in one ear and out the other. We wanted to show everybody we're the 5A champions from last year, and it's not going to be that easy to get past us.
"This was a business trip for us, and we handled business."
Smart, a McDonald's All-American, may have been the game's most versatile player, scoring 15 points, grabbing rebounds, delivering five assists, recording five steals and, most importantly, defending both of the Harrison twins at various times. He did so while playing with four fouls in the second half.
As good as Smart was, however, the night belonged to Forte, who still remembered last year's efforts in the state finals against Garland Lakeview Centennial. Despite the Marauders winning, Forte finished that game with three points and made 1 of 12 shots from the field, including a 1-for-9 performance from the 3-point line.
Saturday's efforts were totally different. Forte finished with a game-high 24 points and drained four 3-pointers. Perhaps the most telling statistic came from the free throw line, as he connected on all eight of his attempts in a very close game.
"I wanted to get back and prove to everybody I'm a much better player than I showed last year," said Forte, the only Marcus player who played all 32 minutes of the game. Forte additionally was named the game MVP.
Marcus head coach Danny Henderson said, "There was no doubt he was going to come back with a vengeance. I know that kid. He was living for this day. You could see it in his eyes as he came out the tunnel. We knew what we were going to get out of Phil tonight."
The Marauders trailed, 38-34, entering the fourth quarter but managed to retake the lead thanks to the Forte-Smart combination, a tip-in by Jared Hamilton and overall play from New Mexico signee Nick Banyard. Travis trailed by one with 1:27 remaining, but the Tigers kept putting Forte on the free throw line - and Forte kept knocking down shots.
"He did struggle last year," Smart said of Forte, "and for him to come out and do what he did tonight, I'm just so happy for him."
Banyard had 10 pounds and 13 rebounds to add to Forte and Smart's production. Andrew Harrison had 23 points and made 10 of 12 free throws for Travis. Aaron Harrison added 10 points and six rebounds. The twins additionally received one of the highest compliments possible from Henderson.
"Those are the two best guards we've ever faced. They are incredible," Henderson said. "They're going to be NBA players. I don't have any doubt. The tough thing is they surrounded them with shooters."