The 2019 VYPE-Aldine ISD Holiday Hoops Classic presented by the United States Marine Corps kicked off this morning at the M.O. Campbell Educational Center with the St. John's Mavericks defeating the Aldine Nimitz Cougars 67-60.
St. John's escaped Nimitz's aggressive style of play through solid shooting beyond the arc from junior guard Jackson Peakes. The Cougars were able to keep the score within reach throughout the entire thirty-two minutes of play, but in the end the Mavericks were too much to handle.
The game opened with each team trading baskets. Nimitz's Zavian Crosby would open the game with a three pointer, but St. John's Jackson Peakes would answer with an assist by Brian Gordon, his teammate since elementary school. Peakes and Gordon, with Nimitz's inability to make shots early on, would help keep the Mavericks in front. However a flurry to end the first quarter by Nimitz closed the lead to 8 points. Peakes ended the first quarter with 11 points.
Peakes kept his momentum going in the second quarter, hitting back-to-back three pointers to extend the Mavericks' lead. The Cougars would remain within reach of the Mavericks, with Nimitz junior guard Shammar Lamark hitting a timely three-pointer that would help cut the deficit to five points 37-32 heading into halftime.
The Cougars showed more aggressiveness in the third quarter, as they opened up with a 6-0 run, tying the game at 37. St. John's was able to gain control of the Cougars' momentum, finding multiple scoring opportunities leading to gain regain control of the lead. Peakes was once again able to hit another critical three pointer from deep to allow St. John's to go up 44-37. The Mavericks would keep the lead around nine to eleven points for the remainder of the contest.
The Mavericks went on to defeat the Cougars by seven points and advance to the winner's bracket. Jackson Peakes was the VYPE-Aldine ISD Player of the Game, where he finished with 31 points. Gordon was the Mavericks' second leading scorer, finishing with 12 points.
HEADING INTO HER THIRD SEASON LEADING NIMITZ, CHRISTY WESTBROOKS FEELS LIKE THEY ARE CLOSE.
With a solid group of seniors back for the 2019-2020 campaign, Westbrooks feels more confident than ever that the Cougars are playoff bound.
"This year we're extremely close," Westbrooks said. "We have a good group of returning seniors, so we have more experience. Them being seniors makes them very focused. It brings a different dynamic to the team that only seniors can bring. So, playoffs is definitely something in focus for us this year."
Last year, Nimitz finished just on the outside looking in with a record of 14-16 overall, which was an improvement.
"Last year we fell short with keeping the same intensity every game," senior Mariah Samuel said. "We would come in slacking some games. But I feel like with this group of seniors and this team, we're coming in ready to play."
What makes this senior class – headlined by first-team, all-district selection Tyra Davis – is they have been playing together since their freshman year, three of them as teammates on varsity.
"The playoffs have been in my head since my freshman year," Davis said. "With this group that we have this year, I believe that we can make it there."
Davis leads the group along with Samuel (shooting guard, point guard), center Tierra Goosby, Kia Robertson and Ny'Asia Vance, who will emerge this year at the point.
"I feel like we have more experience," Samuel said. "We click now. We've just got it now. I feel it this year, I know we're going to make it."
That kind of work-hard attitude was apparent to Westbrooks, especially this summer.
In the weight room, during AAU, taking shot after shot at night, Westbrooks believes this group is "definitely prepared" and Davis hopes they set the standard for classes to come.
"The goal for another group coming in is to keep that standard right there and just keep pushing,"
Davis said." Look for a common goal and once you look for that, that's how you get there."