We have finally made it back to playoff basketball. The state tournament was cancelled last season due to COVID-19 and we never got to find out if Dickinson, Hightower, Yates or Stafford could win a state title. Now, the UIL and its member teams have successfully navigated a season amidst the pandemic and we will – with all optimism – get to crown state champions once again.
But first, there are still a few things left to sort out. Not every playoff matchup is set and some teams still have games left to played. Playoffs kick off Thursday night so we’ll recap a few of last weeks’ best games and provide a little playoff preview in this edition of The Cooldown.
College Park squeaks into top 25 with big win
College Park faced one last big district challenge against rival The Woodlands last Tuesday and it picked up the kind of win it might need to make a deep playoff run.
The Cavaliers were led by a pair of juniors as Ty Buckman chipped in a team-high 18 points while Nate Murphy added 10. Senior Drew Calderon had 16 points and senior Marvin Dock contributed eight points and three assists.
College Park rallied from a deficit to pick up a big 69-66 win. The Cavs finish district play at a perfect 15-0 and debuted in the state-wide rankings at No. 25 in the most recent TABC poll. College Park will face Spring Dekaney in round one while The Woodlands – the second place finisher in 13-6A – will play Spring in the opening round.
Elkins avenges only loss
Elkins has been one of the best teams in the state all season and proved it again last week by taking down Ridge Point 59-45.
The Knights have just one loss on the ledger this season, to Ridge Point back on January 8. That loss was avenged in a big way on Friday as senior Joshua Fanuiel went for a double-double with 20 points and 11 boards. Jackson Fields added 12 points on 5-5 shooting while Shane Bell chipped in 10 points and six boards.
Klein Oak takes down Klein Collins to secure a playoff spot
There is perhaps no better feeling than picking up a double-digit win against your rival to secure a playoff spot – right Klein Oak?
The Panthers were hot from downtown all night as they took down rival Klein Collins 68-46 on Friday and locked up the final playoff spot in 15-6A, eliminating Collins in the process. Klein Oak will take on Cy Woods in the first round of the playoffs.
TABC Top 25 and Playoff Preview
The Houston area is responsible for 11 of the top 25 teams in the state in class 6A although none of those teams rank in the top five. The top-ranked team in Houston is Shadow Creek at No. 6 in the state. The Sharks are immediately followed by Elkins at No. 7 and Bellaire (11), Atascocita (12), Westfield (13) and Summer Creek (14) to give Houston six teams in the top 14. Houston rounds out the top 25 with Dawson at No. 17, Clear Brook at No. 21 and three teams bringing up the rear – Klein (23), Cy Creek (24) and College Park (25).
Class 5A is a different story, with more title contenders at the top but not as many teams over all. Hightower comes in at No. 3 in the state just behind familiar foe – but not technically Houston-area – Beaumont United at No. 2. Manvel ranks in at No. 7 to join Hightower as the only Houston schools in the top-half of the rankings. Foster comes in at No. 15 followed by Huntsville (16), Paetow (20) and Goose Creek Memorial (23) to round out the 5A rankings.
Class 4A as a whole doesn’t have as many teams in Houston as the other classifications but it does have three perennially great squads in the rankings. Yates will look for another state title, entering the playoffs ranked No. 2 just behind Faith Family. Stafford slots in at No. 9 and Huffman follows close behind at No. 11. The rankings are rounded out by La Marque at No. 16.
The plan was to do a playoff preview before all the fun kicks off on Thursday but that’s a tough task with some parts of the bracket yet to be filled in. Of course, history tells us there is a good chance a currently state-ranked team will be making the state tournament out of Region III in 5A and 6A. The bigger question is, could a state-ranked Houston-area team come out of Region II as well? Check back on Wednesday for a playoff preview special edition of The Cooldown!
Team and Player of the Week
A come-from-behind win against a rival to cap off an undefeated district schedule will always be good enough to win my team-of-the-week… and that is just what College Park did! The Cavs are my TOTW as they head into the playoffs state-ranked after an impressive regular season.
My player-of-the-week is Joshua Fanuiel of Elkins. As mentioned above, the Knights had just one loss on the year – to Ridge Point. The Knights would need to beat Ridge Point in order to share the 20-6A title and Elkins beat Ridge Point in dominating fashion in large part due to a big night from Fanuiel, who finished with 20 points and 11 boards.