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Seven Lakes sophomore Justice Carlton had 36 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in the Spartans' 72-52 win over Tompkins in a district battle of state-ranked teams Friday at Tompkins High.
KATY—Before Friday’s District 19-6A showdown against rival and No. 2 state-ranked Tompkins, Seven Lakes girls basketball coach Angela Spurlock had a chat with her star player, sophomore post Justice Carlton.
Spurlock emphasized to Carlton about letting the game come to her. Don’t try to do too much. Be quick, but don’t hurry. That type of stuff.
“Sometimes, great players push too hard, and sometimes our team has pushed too hard,” Spurlock said. “But we learned from that. Justice calmed herself and made sure she was prepared.”
Carlton, the No. 1 player in the state for the Class of 2024, was apparently born ready, scoring 19 first-quarter points and helping the No. 23 state-ranked Spartans upset the Falcons, 72-52, at Tompkins High.
Carlton finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks as Seven Lakes improved to 24-4 overall, 4-0 in district. Tompkins, the defending back-to-back 19-6A champs, dropped just its second game of the season, falling to 26-2, 4-1.
It was Tompkins’ first district loss since Jan. 29, 2019, against Katy, a remarkable district winning streak of 30 consecutive games.
“It’s extremely important,” Carlton said. “Last year, we lost to them two or three times. This year, to come out and get this win, it just shows how much we’ve improved as a team. I feel like people were underestimating us and we came out and did what we had to do.”
Make that 15 early 1Q points for @THEspartanway7 sophomore post Justice Carlton. She is dominating. (Terrific ball movement, too). #txhshoops @KatyISDAthletic @SLHSABCpic.twitter.com/eL22MrCYES — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Carlton was exceptional from the tip. She was simply too powerful and agile, using her size to get easy buckets inside and her quickness to maneuver through harassing crowds of Falcons.
However, Carlton also showed off improved ballhandling, a solid dribble-drive game that makes her even more of an unfair matchup.
“She’s taken another level,” Spurlock said. “She’s facing the basket now. We played her a lot with her back to the basket last year. No one wants to be a post, but she honors that. As her game grows and as we continue to work with her, all of her talent, no matter where she is on the court, is starting to show.”
As deadly as her post game is, Carlton was just as tough when she caught the ball on the perimeter. She drove to the basket through traffic with ease, and once she got to the rim, it was easy pickings.
“I’m just a lot more confident,” Carlton said. “I lost a lot of weight over the summer. I definitely feel way better than I did last year. I’m going to keep working. I’m not done. I’m just a sophomore. I’ve still got two more years here, so I’m going to continue to work.”
Justice Carlton off the dribble. She\u2019s got 34 points. Absolute stud on the court. #txhshoops @THEspartanway7 @SLHSABCpic.twitter.com/WleJYhprXn — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
As Carlton got off to the rapidly rabid start, leading Seven Lakes to a surprising double-digit lead rather quickly against a perennially relentless Tompkins defense, it opened things up for her teammates, like senior guard Summer Halphen, who scored 20 points and hit four of nine 3-pointers to go with six rebounds.
“She’s amazing,” said Halphen, who made big shot after big shot as the Falcons focused their defensive energy on Carlton. “Even though she’s younger than me, I still look up to her. Her confidence in me just brings my confidence up.”
Halphen was a difference-maker, particularly in the second half when she scored 11 of her points.
“Stay strong, don’t get down even when I missed shots," she said of her effort. “I kept my head up the whole time.”
Senior K.K. Tucker had nine points to go with four assists. Senior Aliyah Atiqi made four big free throws late as Tompkins desperately tried to storm back.
Seven Lakes made six of 14 3-pointers, making Tompkins pay whenever it sent an extra defender at Carlton.
“When we set the tone early, we tend to play really well,” Spurlock said. “The beauty of basketball is you need every player to step up in games like this. Teams with just one great player don’t win all the time. Our girls stepped up big tonight.”
Tompkins got within 41-32 early in the third quarter, thanks to a couple of big 3s from junior Macy Spencer, who led the Falcons with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
.@macyKS13 is all over this highlight. First, the diving hustle to get the steal. Then the deep 3. She\u2019s got 15 points, 4-8 from deep. #txhshoops @TompkinsGBB @OTHSABClubpic.twitter.com/jT2CTccCzm — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
The Falcons drew some bright moments from sophomore Gabby Panter (13 points) and junior Fiyin Adeleye (six points, six rebounds), but not consistently enough to truly threaten Seven Lakes.
“We were ready,” Halphen said. “A win like this brings our confidence all the way up. We’re so proud of this win. We just have to keep working hard every day like we’ve been doing. Keep with our routines and stay strong.”
Seven Lakes and Tompkins play again Feb. 1 at Seven Lakes.
Seven Lakes downed Fulshear in a battle of state champions on Tuesday at Seven Lakes High.
Seven Lakes High School was the spot on Tuesday evening, as 2020 Class 6A state champ Seven Lakes and 2019 Class 5A state champ Fulshear met up in a clash of titans.
The Spartans, reloading after the graduation of Gatorade National Player of the Year Ally Batenhorst, swept Fulshear in a bit of a surprise, 3-0 (25-12, 25-15, 25-14) to improve to 7-3.
"This is a fun group," coach Amy Cataline said. "It's been neat to watch them cheer each other on. The older girls are taking the young girls under their wing, and we get to see the young girls blossom and come out of their shell with each match."
Senior Emma Schroder, emerging as Seven Lakes' key attacker, had 13 kills and five blocks to lead the Spartans. Senior Mia Blum had seven kills. Senior Casey Batenhorst had five kills, an ace and directed the Spartans' offense exceptionally.
"Obviously I can't replace Ally, but just taking on that responsibility with me, Casey and all the seniors, hopefully we can push through together," said Schroder, whom Cataline said has picked up where she left off after starring in Seven Lakes' postseason run last year. "We lost a lot of seniors, but we're still strong."
.@7LakesVBnews senior @EmmaSchroder6 talks about tonight’s sweep of Fulshear. Schroder had 13 kills and five blocks… https://t.co/5htdF6gnzB — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
Seven Lakes earned the demonstrative win. But Fulshear, a state finalist last season, is not at full strength.
Baylor commit Alexis Dacosta is no longer with the team and did not play a game for Fulshear this year. Senior star Brielle Warren, a Purdue commit, played her first game of the season Tuesday as she attempts a healthy return from a foot injury, but only played in brief spurts. She spent most of the game on the bench with resistance bands to stretch out her foot.
Warren did not play the first set and played sporadically in the second and third sets. She was still able to post a team-best seven kills.
Senior Ava Underwood, a Texas A&M commit, is transitioning full-time from libero to setter.
"We've been talking a lot about how we have a different team than we've had the last couple of years and how it's just going to look different," Fulshear coach Sydney Zimmerman said. "We have a lot of leaders that graduated last year that were the leaders for four years. When Fulshear opened, they were the first varsity team and went all the way through, so we're still working on kids stepping up and what it means to be a leader and how to do it on the court and how to do it in tough games."
Fulshear senior and Purdue commit Brielle Warren.Bradley Collier | VYPE Media
Recovering from the loss of Dacosta who had 286 kills, 237 digs and 32 aces last season, will take time, Zimmerman said.
"It's different," Zimmerman said. "She was on our state championship team and state finalist team and was someone the girls looked up to because her skills are phenomenal. She could play six rotations. So, yeah, it hurts a little bit.
"Trying to find people to play that spot, it's big shoes to fill. It's been good for the team to unite around that and figure out those spots together and do it, but it'll take time on the court. As far as the team attitude, they're really kind of coming together because of that loss."
Zimmerman said it's a daily grind to remind her players the importance of being "bought in." The good thing is her captains—Warren, Underwood, and junior Rachel Nordt—are making a conscientious effort of ensuring that.
In the meantime, Zimmerman has seen players step up and work hard to fill spots, such as freshman Bailey Warren, Brielle's sister, and juniors Victoria Powell and Olivia Drayden.
Fulshear is 7-5 after its first 12 games of the season, but its schedule is tougher this season now that tournaments are permitted after COVID-19 canceled them last year. The Chargers played in the intensely competitive 40-team Adidas John Turner Classic last week. They placed third in the silver bracket.
Three of Fulshear's five losses have come to Class 6A programs. The combined record of the Chargers' opponents this year is 40-13.
"It will cause them to work harder and come together more," Zimmerman said. "Of course, it's more fun when you're rolling over people and not having to work super hard, but our practices right now are having to be very strategic with all the details we have to work on. It's more challenging, but in the long run it's going to be better for them, for sure."
To listen to the match podcast from Tuesday's Fulshear-Seven Lakes volleyball game: https://www.vype.com/vype-live-volleyball-fulshear-vs-seven-lakes?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2