The Cooldown: Week 23

Last week saw plenty of great hoops action but that wasn’t the only important thing that happened. The biannual UIL Realignment took place on Thursday and teams found out who they’ll be playing in district and who bi-district opponents will be for the next two years.

This is likely the last time we’ll see a UIL Realignment with only six classifications. The UIL is rumored to be strongly considering adding a class 7A in the next round of realignment in 2024. This makes sense considering 6A schools have a minimum enrollment of 2,225. Schools that hover around that number currently compete in the same classification as, for example, Allen High School in DFW, which has an enrollment of more than 7,000 students.

Maybe it is because the next round of realignment figures to bring massive change, but this round of realignment didn’t bring much change in the Houston area. Most of the biggest changes involved centered around teams being moved up classifications rather than teams switching districts. We don’t recap any hoops action this week but we do include players-of-the-week. Here are some of the biggest Houston area headlines from UIL Realignment 2022.

21-6A remains in-tact

The “new” 21-6A is the same as it has been for the last two years – North Shore, CE King, Humble ISD and Beaumont West Brook – with the new addition of Beaumont United who has moved up from 5A.

This is a big story because many believed North Shore could potentially have been pushed to the south to play Channelview, Deer Park and Pasadena ISD in 22-6A. That would have given the Mustangs few regular season challenges, something we saw hurt Fort Bend Marshall in 5A last season. It also would have cleared the way for Atascocita, Summer Creek and CE King to fight it out for the 21-6A title.

Instead, North Shore stays in a loaded district that will be plenty of fun to watch. The addition of United makes it an even stronger basketball district as well. Atascocita is perennially ranked and North Shore and Summer Creek have spent plenty of time in the state-wide top 25 in recent years as well. Add in the current defending 5A state champs and 21-6A might be the most competitive all-around district in the entire state.

6A has no real change

At a quick glance, no team in the Houston area actually changed districts. Cleveland, Caney Creek and New Caney took 13-6A from a six team district to a nine team district as each moved up from 5A. Districts 14, 16, 17 and 18 are all the same. District 15 is the same plus the addition of Waller to make it an eight team district. Katy ISD comprises all of 19-6A once again with the additions of Paetow and Jordan.

District 20 adds Hightower, district 21 adds Beaumont United and districts 22, 23 and 24 are carbon copies of the last round of realignment. So here’s the story in 6A: districts 13, 15, 19, 20 and 21 each add new teams. How do the holdovers compete with the new blood? This is particularly relevant in 13-6A, where teams had a two-thirds shot at a playoff spot (four for six teams) and is now four playoff spots for nine teams.

The other thing I’m interested in seeing is what happens in 20-6A. How does Hightower adjust to being moved back up to the highest classification in the state? The Hurricanes should be well prepared after sharing a district with Paetow, Manvel and Foster among others. 20-6A is a quality district, so if Hightower steals a playoff spot, who slides out?

The same is true for Katy ISD in 19-6A. Jordan remains a question mark but Paetow just won state in football and could make a state run in basketball. How does Paetow adjust to 6A, especially after losing a senior-heavy class? Can they compete at the top with Katy or will they slide below Tompkins and even potentially Cinco Ranch or Seven Lakes?

Big shake-ups in 5A

One big thing immediately jumped off the page when looking at the 5A realignments. For football – which splits into division one and two before the season unlike 6A – Houston ISD moved up to 5A-I. This means a new district for Fort Bend Marshall, who remains in 5A-II.

Marshall cruised to a 10-0 regular season record last season before losing in round one to a 5-5 Barbers Hill squad. Marshall let up just 28 points in district play and shut out six out of eight district opponents. It allowed 21 points to Galena Park and seven points to Willowridge. That schedule left the Buffs wholly unprepared for a tested Barbers Hill squad, who cruised past Marshall 42-21 in the first round. Marshall was ranked in the top three in the state all season, just to fall flat come playoff time; a team that played for three-straight regional titles wasn’t ready. The UIL helped fix that problem on Thursday.

The Buffs are still district mates with the only two district opponents to score on them last season: Galena Park and Willowridge. Gone are the HISD schools, replaced by Texas City, Nederland, Port Neches-Groves, Dayton and Santa Fe. Though it is more competitive, Marshall should still be the favorite to win this district.

District 10-5A-I stayed just as competitive though it lost Hightower and state champion Paetow. The district still includes Manvel, Angleton and Foster, and adds Magnolia and Magnolia West. Magnolia finished 7-4 last season while Mag West went 10-2 losing only to state runner-up College Station and 2020 state champion Denton Ryan. Keep an eye on 10-5A-I and 9-5A-II in class 5A when it comes to state title contenders.

Non-district games to look forward to

One of the best parts of realignment day is coaches scheduling non-district opponents for the next two seasons. Plenty of games stood out and here’s what I’m looking forward to.

Ridge Point swung for the fences, scheduling a home-and-home tilt with three-time defending state champions Austin Westlake. The Chaps will kick off the Tony Salazar era, following the retirement of legendary coach Todd Dodge, against the Rick LaFavers-led Panthers in Austin next season. The Chaps travel to Fort Bend County in 2023. Ridge Point will take on Dickinson in week two as well.

Paetow gets an interesting 6A warmup against Conroe and Cy Ranch before taking on Katy ISD. Tompkins will also face Cy Ranch in non-district and adds Bridgeland for a solid pre-Katy ISD warm-up. Marshall will play Klein, Crosby and Alief Taylor prior to district to complete a schedule that should better prepare the Buffs for the playoffs. Bridgeland faces Tompkins and Shadow Creek in non-district. Travis will kick off the season against Spring as each try to build around new quarterbacks. Hightower gets a warm welcome to 6A against Pearland Dawson and Westfield.

It has also been reported by the Dallas Morning News that CE King will face Allen, though the location of that game has not been reported. That is looking like the marquee DFW-Houston non-district showdown at the moment and will be a good test for the Panthers before a tough district slate. However, one other rumored game may top that. There has been some smoke around a potential non-district showdown between Atascocita and Duncanville but that has yet to materialize.

Players of the Week

UIL Realignment dominated the headlines last week but we still had some great hoops action. The Tompkins girls traveled to Seven Lakes for a showdown with district title implications after losing round one against the Lady Spartans. All Macy Spencer did was score 26 points and rack up seven boards en route to a win and a spot atop the 19-6A standings. For that, Spencer is my player-of-the-week!

Just like Spencer and the Tompkins girls, it was the Dickinson boys getting itself back into the district title conversation by winning round two against Clear Brook. And just like a former player-of-the-week, it was a Texas A&M football signee powering his team to that victory. Future Aggie offensive lineman PJ Williams totaled 16 points and eight boards as the Gators gutted out a 58-52 win against Clear Brook to regain the top spot in 24-6A. PJ Williams is my boys’ player-of-the-week!

State Rankings

Here are the state-wide rankings for January 31.

In class 6A, Westfield continues to hold down the top spot in Houston at No. 3 in the state. The Mustangs are followed by Elkins (5), Dickinson (6), Atascocita (11), Cy Ranch (12), Cy Falls (13), Clear Brook (14), Pearland Dawson (16), Shadow Creek (17) and Seven Lakes (18). This means Houston accounts for 10 of the top 25 teams in 6A.

In class 5A, Paetow now holds down the top spot at No. 8 in the state. The Panthers are followed by Crosby (10), Marshall (11), Hightower (18) and Kingwood Park (21). Class 4A is led by Houston Washington at No. 4, followed by Stafford (8), Brazosport (12) and La Marque (22). New Waverly (No. 16) remains the only Houston-area team ranked in 3A.

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