The Cooldown: Week 24

Girls hoops season ended the same way football did – an oh-fer at the state tournament for the three teams playing.

The Summer Creek, Randle and Columbus girls basketball teams went the same way Summer Creek, North Shore and Bellville did at the football state championships in December – back to Houston without a gold medal. But, just as I wrote in December, I’ll once again say that there’s so much more that matters outside of winning a state championship. The Randle girls inspired us with a run to the state tournament in just the second varsity season in program history. Summer Creek gave us an overtime thriller against Duncanville. Columbus’ trip to the state tournament was its second ever, making this a special group.

With that being said, let’s recap girls state tournament and boys regional final action and give out POTWs – including our last girls POTW of the season.

Girls State Tournament Recap

In the same vein of impressive accomplishments outside of winning state, Columbus finished third in its own district but was still able to make a run to the state tournament. It’s not the first time that’s ever happened, but it certainly doesn’t happen often.

The season came down to simply having no answer for an opposing star. Kyra Anderson racked up 28 points and 17 rebounds in Huntington’s 47-33 state semifinal win. Huntington went on to lose to Shallowater, 54-49 in overtime.

For the Lady Cardinals, Karlee Mathis and Anaya Gardner finished in double figures with 14 points and 11 points, respectively. Gardner also had seven rebounds. Mathis, Gardner, Sage Thomas and Thea Schobel each played all but 13 seconds of the game.

This group capped off their careers with consecutive appearances in the state tournament, something the Columbus girls team had never done in school history prior to 2023. That’s something to be celebrated.

Just like Columbus, the Randle girls ran into a brick wall as well. This particular brick wall goes by the name of Jacy Abii, who racked up 17 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists in Frisco Liberty’s 66-37 win against the Lady Lions.

Abii didn’t do it alone; Liberty finished with four scorers in double figures – Keyera Roseby had 13 points, Aziyah Farrier finished with 12 and Lillian Johnson had 11. Liberty shot 49% from the field while Randle shot 18%.

For Randle, Alaysia Cook and Kurynn McNeill led the way with 13 points apiece. Those two accounted for 26 of Randle’s 37 points. For a game diagnosis, the shooting splits mentioned above, plus the fact that Liberty out-rebounded the Lions by 20 and Randle had just four assists paints the picture that Liberty was simply overwhelming for Randle.

Still, five playoff wins and a state tournament appearance is quite a feat for a team in just its second year in program history. That’s a big deal for a young program and reflects a great deal on the coaching staff and, especially, the girls who got the program to this point in such a short amount of time.

The toughest pill to swallow at state weekend belongs to Summer Creek. The Lady Bulldogs were incredibly resilient, rallying from a double-digit deficit to send the game to overtime, before losing to Duncanville 39-31.

This game was a defensive slugfest in every sense of the term. Summer Creek shot 11-31 as a team; Duncanville wasn’t much better at 13-44. The way those points were scored is in stark contrast.

Summer Creek got a little from everyone; no player scored double digits. Zachara Perkins had eight points, Kennedy Simpson had seven, Mariyah Brown had six and Janiya Murphy and Mychie White had five points apiece. Compare that to Duncanville, who got 18 points from Mariah Clayton and 14 from Chloe Mann, and seven points from the rest of the team combined.

Duncanville led by as many as 11 points late in the third quarter before Summer Creek went on a 9-0 scoring run to make it a game. Though the Lady Bulldogs couldn’t finish the comeback in overtime, they had a great season at 34-5 and were able to get back to the state tournament after missing out last season – that was a goal for the team all year and they accomplished it.

To put a wrap on girls hoops season, congratulations to all the seniors on outstanding high schools careers and best of luck with whatever is next. To the teams around the area that gave us an amazing season filled with great action, thank you – 2023-24 was a fun season and I’m already looking forward to what next year has in store.

Boys Regional Finals Recap

We entered Friday with 10 area teams left alive and Saturday with six area teams still hoping for a shot at a state tournament appearance. By the end of Saturday, two area teams are left standing; Hitchcock and Stafford will represent Houston at state.

Heartbreak was the story of the weekend. Marshall lost its regional final by two points; Clear Springs lost by one. Washington lost by single digits in the regional final as well; Iowa Colony fell in overtime to Stafford.

Clear Springs continued its dream run through the playoffs in Friday night with a 54-56 win against Bellaire behind a huge 27-point performance from David Emelife. It was Emelife leading the way again on Saturday with a team-high 15 points, but without the Cinderella ending the Chargers were looking for.

Beaumont United advanced to its fourth-straight state tournament (two of those coming 5A; both resulting in state championships) with a 49-48 win. Had Clear Springs scored two more points, it would have secured a berth in its first-ever state tournament. It was a Cinderella season because the Chargers appeared in their first-ever regional tournament. Though the season came to a painful end, that’s worth celebrating.

Marshall suffered its own painful ending. For the second year in a row, the Buffs won their regional semifinal game before falling to Killeen Ellison in the regional finals.

This regional tournament was last years’ polar opposite for Marshall. Last season, Marshall was on the right end, then the wrong end, of consecutive blowouts. This year, both of the Buffs’ regional tournament games were decided by two points.

Marshall rallied from a double digit deficit to take down Killeen Shoemaker on Friday night. Armani Thomas led the team with 10 points, while Demarcus Johnson had eight points and the game-winner in the 46-44 win.

Less than 24 hours later, Marshall had to watch Ellison celebrate after a gut wrenching 44-42 loss. Chris Catchings led the Buffs with 14 points while Johnson had eight points again, this time sans-game-winner.

Though it won’t replace the thrill of playing at the state tournament, there’s something to be said for being the best in Houston. Marshall was the last team Houston area team left playing in class 5A each of the last two seasons and has a record of 70-9 in that time. Maybe, in a way, that makes it more painful. From my perspective, I think it’s incredibly impressive, and unfortunate that the Buffs have had to try and go through an Ellison program that is 72-9 in the last two seasons. Ellison lost to Kimball in last years’ state championship game.

Boys State Tournament Preview

However, there are still two Houston area teams moving on to the state tournament. Hitchcock is 33-3 this season and will take on San Antonio Cole (32-9) at 3 p.m. on Thursday. The winner gets the winner of Holliday (34-2) and Ponder (36-6) who play at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Hitchcock is making its fifth state tournament appearance (2003, 04, 22, 23, 24) and has one championship. The Bulldogs are defending state champions after beating Childress in last years’ state championship game.

To get there, Hitchcock made quick work of Kountze on Saturday. The Bulldogs made a statement with an 83-44 win. Bryce Dorsey led the way with 21 points, Lloyd Jones chipped in 20 and 15 rebounds, Damien McDaniel racked up 19, nine assists and seven boards, and Elijah Sherwood had 18 points. Good luck stopping all of that.

Stafford will face a team who is no stranger to the state tournament in Oak Cliff Faith Family (23-11) at 3 p.m. on Friday. Faith Family has six state tournament appearances in school history, coming in each of the last six seasons dating back to 2019. Stafford is no stranger to state either, with eight appearances in 1991, 92, 98, 2006, 09, 10, 20 and 24. Stafford won state in 1992 while Faith Family won state in 2019, 2022 and 2023. It will be a tall order to take down the two-time defending state champions.

At 35-6, Stafford has 12 more wins this season than Faith Family, though the Eagles played an interesting schedule to say the least. Faith Family counts 6A Lake Travis, California powerhouse Mater Dei and national powerhouse Montverde Academy (FL) among its 11 losses.

So, Faith Family’s record is misleading, to say the least. The Eagles have won every playoff game by at least 23 points. Stafford advanced to state by winning its state tournament games 74-46 over Bishop and 71-64 over Iowa Colony in overtime.

Hitchcock has the better shot at winning a state championship of the two teams, especially considering Hitchcock is the defending 3A state champs, but both are high-level teams capable of getting the job done.

Players of the Week

My girls player-of-the-week led her team to the best season in the schools’ short history. With 13 points and five steals in the state semifinals, Randle guard Alaysia Cook is my player-of-the week!

My boys player-of-the-week could go to any of a quartet of outstanding Hitchcock Bulldogs that have helped propel the team to another state tournament appearance. It feels unfair to pick one but I’m going to do it anyway. So, with a shout-out to all of the deserving quartet of Damien McDaniel, Bryce Dorsey, Lloyd Jones and Elijah Sherwood, my boys player-of-the-week is…

Lloyd Jones, who finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds in Hitchcock’s regional finals win against Kountze.

I also want to give a shout-out to David Emelife and Alec Belter from Clear Springs, Armani Theus, Chris Catchings and DeMarcus Johnson from Marshall and Odis Carter and Chris McDermott from Washington – all of whom were outstanding this year at their respective schools.

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