SAN ANTONIO, Texas—Last week’s UIL Girls Basketball State Tournament saw the Lone Star State crown six champions for the 2016 – 17 season. Normally we might say six “new” champions but Canyon claimed their fourth 5A title in a row while Argyle got their third consecutive in 4A and for good measure 6A Duncanville repeated their own success from last year.
Regardless of who gets to hang a banner back home you can count on the fact that there’s going to be some talented players taking the floor in the Alamodome when 24 teams gather in Texas for all the marbles. And you can’t debate the caliber of that talent given that the state lays claim to 6 of 24 2017 McDonald’s All-Americans and 7 representatives among the 29 total athletes (1st – 3rd team and Honorable Mention) recognized as part of this year’s Naismith team.
Today we follow up our championship coverage with some of the standout performances from the 2017 state tournament games in San Antonio last weekend. To see our previous championship content, follow the link below.
Manfield Timberview had a tough weekend dropping the 5A final to Canyon after taking a five point lead into the final period. An obvious reason for the Wolves success in the Alamodome and across the season was the play of senior Chennedy Carter. A McDonald’s All-American, the 5-8 guard is as dynamic and explosive as you’re going to find on the scholastic level. The ability to create off the dribble is fun to watch unless you’re a defender trying to recover. She elevates on her jumper to the pint of having clean looks even against strong close outs. Carter shot 17 for 32 in two games producing 40 points to wrap up her high school career. The defensive end of the floor caught up to her against Canyon in those critical last eight minutes as early, careless personal fouls caught up to her leading to an early exit with 2:20 remaining while sitting on a three point lead.
It’s always good to see promising young players and London Clarkson of Pflugerville is providing some play that will catch the eyes of anyone watching. While she and her teammates fell in the semis to Cypress Ranch, the 6-1 forward didn’t appear intimidated to be on the big stage. Finishing with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, she exhibited the versatility that coaches love to see at the forward spot. Physically strong, she can post and finish with contact. At the same time, there are some face up moves in place that serve her well down there on the block or on the catch at the elbows. Even more impressive is her vision on the catch or the rebound for some strong passing results in sets or transition. Keep watching.
Highly regarded junior Charli Collier made the most of her junior season leading her Barbers Hill team to the state tournament where the Lady Eagles hadn’t made an appearance since 2012. While their stay was cut short in the semifinals, Collier offered up some moments that remind folks why she’s among the elite of the 2018 class. Her 22 point, 11 rebound double-double wasn’t enough as Barbers Hill fell to eventual champion Canyon by a 27 point margin. The 6-5 post continues to evolve as a true post up impact and is balancing her game better and better. The perimeter shot is there as well as the high post drive but their use is much more judicious and efficient than in the past. One on one Collier is a handful for any defender and she utilizes her full reach and extension to protect the ball. However, she’s not isolated as much one might want to let her work without plenty of company from the opposition.
It’s hard not to take notice of the promising youth on Martin’s Mill roster. Despite coming up seven points short in the 2A final to Panhandle the future is bright with just two seniors moving on with graduation this spring. Part of a youthful backcourt, sophomore guard Mollie Daniel is a steady contributor for the Lady Mustangs. The 5-4 guard creates off the dribble and reads rotations as she attacks the rim. Defensively she’s strong on ball and sees the floor from the weakside. While her number weren’t off the charts the possibilities are there in her game on both ends of the floor.
Buffalo’s runner up finish in 3A highlighted the play of freshman forward Mollie Dittmar. At 5-11 she’s playing physical and with lots of effort. Producing 30 points and 17 boards over two games, she’s a presence down low for the Lady Bison. Dittmar also connected on 12 of her 19 combined field goal attempts. She’s already smart in her low post positioning and knows what she’s looking for on the floor. There’s obviously refinement still to come at her age but things look promising.
Virtually a fixture at the UIL State Tournament, Argyle senior forward and 4A MVP Vivian Gray once again provided evidence of her legitimacy among the Texas elite. Her 10 of 13 shooting performance in the semis was part of a 25 point, 15 rebound double-double. For the tournament, she contributed 39 points and 30 rebounds leading to a third consecutive state championship. Gray plays with top tier instincts and has continued to advance her skill set over the course of her career. Her mid-range fall away has become a real challenge for defenders and she’s efficient in traffic among players with more size. Peers and younger players should take note of her active effort both with and without the ball. Gray makes herself a factor in almost every play on either end of the floor.
Duncanville is used to grabbing championship hardware and junior wing Zarielle “Zay” Green is becoming comfortable with the process as well. All the 6A MVP did was provide 46 points and 15 rebounds over the course two double figure Pantherette wins in the ‘Dome. Make no mistake, Green is going to get her looks (16 for 41) and she’s a legitimate threat from deep as demonstrated by her 6 for 17 three point effort. At the same time, it’s her approach that makes her the game changer that she can be. With the ball, she’s on the attack both on the break or off the drive within the confines of a quickhitter. She can get to the rim or pull up on a dime for a high-rise jumper. Add her 6-0 frame to the mix and you have to make choices in deciding how to match up with her. On the defensive end, she has all the size, quickness and agility to make an impact in any scheme.
Regardless of the state, Canyon pulled off the rare “four-peat” with their senior class knowing nothing but state titles across the course of their careers. Angel Hayden, the 5A MVP, made sure she and her teammates kept the streak alive edging Timberview in an exciting 47 – 45 championship game. Hayden’s semifinal effort was a 29 point, 9 of 11 shooting night which she followed with a 16 point contribution in the final. If you think Hayden doesn’t create, think for a moment that over the course of 55 minutes of play she was 23 for 27 from the line. Time and again the 5-6 senior took the ball into traffic and made the most of her opportunities. Off the dribble her crossover serves her well and she’s seeing the floor on the attack in transition and the halfcourt. While she can finish with contact, the touch is there on her pull up as well to keep the opposition guessing.
One of the promising underclassmen on hand in the Alamodome was Nazareth’s sophomore swing player Cambrie Heiman. At 5-10 she’s got a solid build and a good understanding of how to use it. She’s active with and without the ball possessing a good understanding for her age as to how to read defenders. Her 7 of 12 shooting (3 for 5 from three) was instrumental in getting the Swiftettes into the final where they claimed the program’s 21st state crown. Heiman has the tools to help her teammates set their sights on number 22.
Dodd City came up one game short in 1A falling to Nazareth in Saturday’s final. Senior forward Olivia Hilliard had strong outings both in the semifinals and the championship loss to Nazareth. The 6-1 post had two games totals of 31 point and 24 rebounds producing a double-double both nights. From the floor, she was a combined 13 for 27. Hilliard is presence down low and works to make herself an option in high low scenarios. With the strength to hold her position she also has the hands to pull in some errant passes at times leading to some consistent finishing around the rim.
Zay Green isn’t alone in the Duncanville gauntlet of talent. Junior Starr Jacobs continues to evolve and contribute in a way that makes her future continue to look very promising. Though still wearing a knee brace from last year’s ACL detour, the 6-1 forward is showing no residual impact from the injury. Her two game totals of 25 points and 16 rebounds included a double-double in the championship 76 – 65 win over Cypress Ranch. An inside-out threat, Jacobs is active and aggressive in looking to develop her own options. She can put it on the floor effectively and get to the rim but also has a solid jumper to call on as needed. Her length serves her well defensively and she’s strong on the offensive glass.
Buffalo came up just two points short in their quest for the 3A championship falling in Saturday’s title game to Canadian 51 – 49. Senior guard Jordan Jenkins was the big producer for the Lady Bison with a two game total of 48 points and 12 rebounds. The explosive 5-5 Jenkins has the ability to take it to the rim, pull up or drop it from deep. The speed and quickness are there on both ends and she plays with an attacking mentality throughout. Limited size doesn’t seem to be an issue for her when defenders continually struggle to keep pace.
In Panhandle’s run to the 2A title, junior post Grace Kuehler provided an MVP performance across two games to help the Pantherettes claim top honors. Producing a combined 29 points and 19 rebounds, the 5-10 junior was workhorse around the rim. Shooting 13 – 21, Kuehler provided a smart, textbook effort while making herself a physical presence down low despite standing just 5-10. Each time Panhandle was in need of someone to “make a play” she was ready, willing and, most certainly, able.
Sophomore guard Samantha Lowry had some good numbers in Mt. Vernon’s semifinal loss to Buffalo. The 5-6 guard wasn’t shy about putting it up taking 19 attempts in 27 minutes. At the same time she produced 23 points largely by way of her 5 of 14 effort from three point range. Lowry knows how to spot up and look for her shot both within a halfcourt set or in transition. The touch is there both from deep as well as off the pull up. She’ll need to do more off the dribble to keep defenders honest.
We mentioned the youth of Martin’s Mill earlier and freshman Abbie Orrick is an instrumental part of that movement. A 21 point and 15 rebound effort were key in the Lady Mustang’s win over defending champ Weimar in the semifinals. While cold from the floor in the championship game she once again pulled double figure boards in the loss finishing with 11. The 5-7 guard is constantly looking to create and has the skills to get to the rim. In traffic, she can see her own options as well as those of her teammates. Obviously, the effort is there on the boards but she’s willing to get physical on the defensive end as well.
One of the Lone Star State’s higher profile athletes, Sedona Prince of Liberty Hill, did her part to take the Panthers within one game of a state crown. The 6-7 post has shown a constant and steady advancement in her game over the years and ranks among the most versatile interior threats nationwide. In San Antonio, she produced two double-doubles combining for 27 points and 29 rebounds as she and her teammates came up 10 points short versus Argyle in the 4A final. Prince’s touch from the 15 foot range challenges defenders as does her ability to pass the ball away from the rim. Playing with confidence, she’s running the floor aggressively and making herself a factor on almost every possession. The best part is knowing the plenty more is still to come.
Another 2017 McDonald’s selection, DiDi Richards, helped lead her Cypress Ranch teammates to school’s first ever appearance in the UIL State Tournament. All the 6-2 senior did was post 20 points and 7 rebounds in a semifinal win before the Lady Mustangs fell to Duncanville in the championship match-up. Richards still had 16 and 9 in the competitive loss. From the floor, she was 13 for 33 (39%) and was able to be productive in a variety of ways. The tools are there to create off the dribble and she’s using her body much more effectively in traffic than in the past. The touch is there both off the pull up or if left alone further out on the perimeter. Richards is another of those elite players who has continued to show advancements to the depth of her skill set throughout her scholastic career.
The two point 3A championship win by Canadian over Buffalo was one of the best contests of the weekend. Eventual MVP Haevyn Risley had 22 in the semis against Goliad but came out slowly against the Lady Bison finishing the first half with just four points. When all was said and done the 5-9 senior finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals to help the Lady Cats claim a thriller. The 5-9 senior guard has the tools to score off the drive, pull up or spotting up on the perimeter. She’s fluid with the ball and uses a strong change of speed on penetration.
Nazareth reclaimed the 1A crown they lost last season behind the play of senior Allie Schulte. In two games the 5-10 wing had 28 points on 9 of 14 shooting including 4 for 6 from behind the arch earning state tournament MVP honors.. Active on both ends of the floor, she’s simply outworking the opposition at times. The ability is there to get out in the lanes on the break as well as make herself an option in the halfcourt. On the other end of the floor Schulte was a one man wrecking crew with 16 combined steals possessing the length to guard bigger but agility to match- up in the backcourt as well.
It would be a mistake to ever think Argyle is all about legendary coach Skip Townsend or prolific senior Vivian Gray. Their third consecutive title has the finger prints of junior Gabby Standifer all over it. Playing with nice size and a solid build, the 6-0 wing / forward makes herself an option both on the break and in the halfcourt. Defenses pay a price if she outworks them to free herself up from deep. Standifer was 9 for 19 with the long ball producing 19 points in the semi and 12 more in the final. Though her shot is off the shoulder to a degree you can’t argue with its ultimate results.
Timberview’s storybook season didn’t quite have a storybook finish but unsigned Taylah Thomas utilized her senior campaign to open some eyes to the possibilities in her future. The 6-1 swing player is explosive athletically and has a knack of making some dramatic plays at the right moments. Producing 15 points and 15 rebounds over the course of two games, she’s an eye catcher for both opponents and fans. The elevation is there to allow her to finish amidst traffic or on a mid-range jumper. She’s a force on the glass, particularly the impactful offensive boards. Thomas is an emotional player to a degree and that will ultimately have to be focused in a more productive direction. Just scratching the surface.
Woden’s stay in San Antonio was short lived falling to eventual champion Panhandle by a disheartening 25 points. In the process, however, junior guard Britney Thompson provided some moments and promising play. The 5-4 guard finished with 18 points in 31 minutes of play Thursday. With limited size she is still a factor with the ball in her hands. She can create both shots and passes off the dribble as well as force defenders to close out with a quick release from the perimeter. Thompson’s hesitation move is strong and she has good individual instincts to call on to develop options. Had some moments defensively as well.
Sophomore guard Kyra White of Converse Judson offered up some moments in the Rockets first ever trip to the Texas Big Dance. While they fell by 12 to the eventual champions from Duncanville, White demonstrated a solid game for a young player against some highly regarded competition. At 5-10 she’s got nice size with a good frame as well as some sound athleticism. She can develop both shots and passes off the dribble plus the tools are there to force defenders to close out on the catch. White has the form and touch to keep the opposition honest as evidenced by her 5 of 11 field goal shooting which included a 3 for 5 scorecard from long range. Lots of promise.
One of the more explosive performances in 2017 tournament action came in the 6A championship contest. Though Cypress Ranch fell short against Duncanville, senior guard Ariana Whitfield continued to zero in from downtown ultimately matching the UIL single game record for made threes with 8 in the 11 point loss. Whitfield finished with 32 points on 10 of 22 shooting including 8 for 16 from deep. In the semifinal win over Pflugerville she had 20 points and 7 boards on a 6 for 12 effort from the floor and 4 for 5 from three point range. The 5-6 guard is smooth and fluid with the ball in her hands. On the attack, there’s plenty of speed and she mixes it up keeping defenders on their toes.