THE PROSPECTUS: Houston's top teams start chase for state hardware
For the city of Houston, girls basketball is a haven of talent and power programs. However, H'Town hasn't been able to parlay it's elite talent into some hoop hardware on a consistent basis. Teams like Cypress Creek have had a flash of brilliance over the past few years and Summer Creek made school history last season reaching their first-ever state tourney, but no team has been able to be THAT team.
Could this be the start of something special?
No. 1 Cypress Creek Cougars
The Cougars made school history two years ago when then-freshmen Kyndall Hunter and Rori Harmon stole the headlines in Houston high school girls' basketball by reaching state. Cypress Creek fell to Summer Creek in the Regional Semis last year and are highly-motived to get back on the court in 2019-20. Hunter (20.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists) and Harmon (20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists) are highly-coveted 2021 recruits and were all-staters. Coach Jennifer Alexander welcomes back two more studs to the lineup in Morgan Hill (8.7 points, 8.1 rebounds) and Taylor Jackson (8.8 points, 6.3 rebounds). Hill is a rangy 6-foot-3 versatile hooper, who has several DI offers, while Jackson is another talented 6-foot-3 post player who can rebound and score in the paint. Ally Haman returns to stretch the defense with her shooting. The Cy-Fair area is loaded with girls' basketball talent and Cy Creek is that team who has balance, great coaching, star players and experience to reach the state tournament again.
No. 2 Summer Creek Bulldogs
It was an historic season a year ago for coach Carlesa Dixon and her squad. The Lady Bulldogs reached the state tournament for the first time in school history before falling to DeSoto in the semis. Maliyah Johnson, an all-state selection and District 22-6A Offensive MVP, leads the way for Summer Creek. The 6-foot-3 Johnson, a Texas A&M-commit, averaged 14 points and seven rebounds a game last year. She is such a tough matchup at the high school level. Dixon will need for juniors Adaora Nwakeji and Alayia Francis to step up big in the backcourt. Nwakeji was the District 21- 6A Defensive Player of the Year last season. Both have experienced big-league games on the 'Dogs run to state, but now it's their time to build their own legacy. Also, back in the huddle is senior Mailyn Wilkerson, who will provide leadership and scoring in crunch time. Summer Creek will have to hold off Atascocita for the district title and could meet them deep in the postseason.
No. 3 FB Hightower Hurricanes
Under the direction of coach Deborah Mize, who enters year 14 with a 363-94 coaching record at Fort Bend Hightower, the Hurricanes have become a power program in Class 5A. The 'Canes have reached the playoffs every year since the year 2000 and have been to state three times during that run. Hightower advanced to the state semis last year before falling to Amarillo and are the favorites to get out of Class 5A Region III in 2020. Back are a trio of Division I recruits – Taelor Purvis (University of Houston), Destini Lombard (LSU) and Zaria Johnson (Virginia). Purvis, who was the District 20-5A Offensive Player of the Year, was an all-state selection, while Lombard was an all-region performer. Hightower should be pushed by Shadow Creek and Foster in district play and their only weakness could be interior size. It's going to be hard to match their guard play and speed up and down the court, however.
No. 4 Atascocita Lady Eagles
The Lady Eagles fell to Westside in a heart-breaker, 45-44, in the Regional Semis last season, which could have set up an all-Humble ISD Regional Final in 2019. Coach Veronica Johnson has led Atascocita to back-to-back Regional Semis – making school history. Elyssa Coleman is a 6-foot-2 post, who recently committed to the University of Texas. She can defend and score in the post, but the Eagles are going to need some backcourt stability. Makaylee Duhon and Robin Whitehead (6.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals) are a pair of sophomores who received some work as freshmen. Whitehead was the district's Newcomer of the Year last season. Are they ready for prime-time hoops come the regional tournament, however? Dede Davis adds some bounce to the lineup as a decorated triple-jumper in track. Also watch out for Kyleigh McGuire and Blake Matthews, who could both contribute big this year.
No. 5 Cypress Ranch Mustangs
Taking over for coach Tresa Martin-Hornsby, who led Cypress Ranch to their first state tourney appearance in school history, was new coach Megan Daniel, who had some big shoes to fill. She did quite nicely as a rookie coach, leading her team to the third round of the Region II postseason tournament after winning District 14-6A going undefeated. Back to lead Cypress Ranch are a talented trio of seniors. Riane Burton, who is committed to the University of Cincinnati, averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds per game and could be the district's leading candidate for MVP. Shadiya Thomas was an all-district, first-teamer last season and also has DI offers. Thomas pitched in 14 points and four assists a game. Shira Patton, who has committed to Northern Arizona, will be more of a distributor. She can also score after averaging eight points and four rebounds a year ago. Year two of the Daniel-era should be even more successful as she puts a more-defined stamp on her program.
No. 6 Shadow Creek Sharks
Hear that? Duh ... Duh ... Duh ... Duh. The Sharks are coming. Shadow Creek made school history last season, reaching the third round of the postseason. Let's just say that coach LaToya Michaeux is blessed with a loaded roster, which is relatively young. The senior leader is Sydni John-Baptiste, who is a 6-foot post that can stretch the court and run. Bre'yon White (9.7 points, 10.6 rebounds) can also create off the dribble at 6-foot and can score from anywhere on the floor. White has already pulled a DI offer with more to come. Da'Nae Williams (8.9 points) will handle much of the point guard duties as an experienced returner, while sophomore R'Mani Taylor was the team's leading scorer last season at 12.1 points per game. It's tough to put so much pressure on a youngster, but Taylor, who was the district's Newcomer of the Year, is up for it. With Foster, Manvel and Hightower in the district, Shadow Creek will be playoff-ready.
No. 7 Westside Wolves
The Wolves were one game away from their first-ever state tourney appearance last year. A triple-overtime loss to Summer Creek is a tough pill to swallow. Coach Troy Gillespie says goodbye to a terrific trio of Kayla Pison, Jessica Soders and Helena Johnson to graduation, but the cupboard is not bare. One of the nation's best will patrol the post in 6-foot-4 Fatou Samb, who averaged 9.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Shanna Petty is also going to need to step up her scoring punch along with Kameryn Lewis. Last year, Lewis was the district's Newcomer of the Year. Fatou's little sister Khady Samb should also play a bigger role this season in her first year on varsity. Also, watch for Trenece Charles to step up. Westside will have to hold off the Heights to win district, but their eyes are on a bigger prize – a run at state. Their guard-play must tighten up to have a legit shot.
No. 8 Foster Falcons
Iron sharpens iron in District 24-5A as it relates to girls' basketball. Last season, Foster finished behind state qualifier Fort Bend Hightower and Manvel. The Hurricanes knocked off Manvel in the Region Finals. District play prepared the Falcons for the playoffs, who went three rounds deep and finished 32-8 overall under the direction of Savitria Williams-Smith. Williams-Smith (4th season, 88-34) returns four starters who can play. Gone are Micayla Hamilton and Miranda Stephens, who signed with the University of St. Thomas and Missouri Western State University, respectively. Alicia Blanton returns as a district first-teamer, averaging a double-double at 14.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Sharlyne Dimalanta was a second-teamer and averaged 8.5 points per game. Sophomore Imani Ivery will provide some bounce, while Jonisha Williams can provide scoring from the outside. "We are just looking to play cohesive basketball with focus on the small details," Williams-Smith said.
No. 9 Magnolia West Mustangs
Way up north ... like way north of Tomball in the small town of Magnolia sits an emerging girls' basketball power. Under the direction of coach Sarah Simmons, the Mustangs made school history in 2019 advancing to the Regional Semis. Gone is all-stater Hannah Eggleston and also Simmons. Stepping in this year is first-year coach Darcie Moore, who comes from Goose Creek Memorial, where she went 60-31. The cupboard isn't bare for Moore as Kamryn Jones returns. The University of Houston-commit, who averaged 10 points and six rebounds per game can carry a team with her athleticism on offense and especially on defense. Junior Kamari Portalis (7 points per game) will run the point and sophomore Megan Donnelly will need to come up big in the scoring department. Also, watch out for Alyssa May, who averaged eight points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 2019. Magnolia West should be able to hold off A&M Consolidated in district play, but the 'Stangs have higher expectations.
No. 10 Ridge Point Panthers
The Ridge Point Panthers have ruled District 20-6A the past few years led by star guard Taylor Thomas, who is now at Loyola-New Orleans. She went 45-9 in district play as a four-year starter and averaged a team-leading 17.8 points per game last year. The Thomas- era is over and now it is someone else's turn to pick up the slack for coach Michael Vitek. That will likely be Aleighyah Fontenot, who averaged 13.6 points per game as a sophomore. Junior point guard Raven Adams (8.1 points, 6.7 assists) will run the offense, while junior post Dala Allen (8 points, 5.2 rebounds) will anchor the post. Senior Marchelle Willis is another experienced guard, who will share the scoring load. Kempner and Dulles will challenge for the district crown with the Panthers. Ridge Point has never advanced past the second round in school history. Will this be the year?
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