State-ranked Hightower continuing stellar season
The Hightower girls basketball team advanced to the Class 5A state championship game in 2010, finishing 35-3 to earn a place among the standout teams in Fort Bend ISD history.
The Hurricanes were skilled and balanced that year, something coach Deborah Mize sees from the current team that takes a 32-2 record and a top-10 state ranking by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and the Texas Girls Coaches Association.
“This team is kind of eerily similar to that group in that there’s not one true superstar that stands out,” Mize said. “It’s kind of a collective way we win games. Our starting five all average around 10 points a game, so it’s kind of hard to key on one player. Do they try to stop Winnie (Kuimi) down low or focus on the guards?”
The Hurricanes’ seasoned starting five includes three seniors and two juniors. The juniors, Taylor Purvis and Destini Lombard are the leading scorers by a narrow margin, averaging 11.3 and 10.1 points per game, as well as more than 2.5 assists per game. Lombard also averages 5.4 rebounds and two blocks and leads the team with an impressive 4.3 steals per game.
Both have had standout individual performances, including Purvis’ 25 points against Lamar Consolidated setting the team high for the season. She also had 17 points and five steals in the Fort Bend ISD Tournament championship game against state-ranked rival Ridge Point. Lombard had 12 steals and 10 points against Angleton, adding 14 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals against Shadow Creek.
Kuimi is an inside force, leading the team with 10.1 rebounds and three blocks per game while shooting 47 percent. The senior has 10 double-doubles, including 13 points, 21 rebounds and eight blocks in the Hurricanes first meeting with state-ranked Foster.
Areas Gipson averages seven rebounds and 2.3 steals, compiling six double-doubles of her own including 14 points, 12 rebounds and five steals against Clear Creek.
Sydni Johnson averages four rebounds and two steals and is the Hurricanes’ most accurate three-point shooter at 30 percent. Her big games include a 19-point outing against Terry, along with 12 points and eight rebounds against North Shore and Ridge Point. While more are expected, Johnson is the only Hurricane to sign with a college thus far, headed to East Texas Baptist University.
Taylor Guillory-Jones completes the Hurricanes’ senior class as a regular contributor. Junior Victoria Chidomere averages 4.3 points and 4.2 rebounds off the bench.
Hightower has even had a freshman play a key role, with A’leah Franklin averaging 5.2 points and 2.3 assists off the bench. Mize said Franklin displayed her ability to handle pressure in the final of the Peggy Whitley Classic early in the season. Forced into the point guard role due to an injury, Franklin helped the Hurricanes win the tournament 58-50 in overtime against state-ranked Manvel.
That was during an outstanding 24-0 start to the season that included victories against several Class 6A schools. The Hurricanes’ only defeats were against Beaumont United in the Gulf Coast Classic and in their second District 24-5A clash with Manvel. They responded with district wins against Angleton, Terry, Lamar Consolidated, Foster and Marshall by an average margin of 41 points.
While Manvel has been Hightower’s closest competition and is tied for first place with the Hurricanes, Foster gave them a test in the second half Jan. 25 before falling 46-38.
“Foster’s a good, athletic team and they’re well-coached,” Mize said. “We knew we’d get their best shot and it was good to close the deal. Three of us, including Manvel and Foster, are ranked in the top 25. Shadow Creek has played us tough. I made sure I got us into a few challenging tournaments and we were fortunate to win two of those. We hope the strength of our district and the tournaments have prepared us for the playoffs.”
Hightower had one game remaining in the regular season Feb. 5 at home against Shadow Creek. The Region III-5A playoff bracket should be competitive, but the Hurricanes have big-game experience including playoff wins at the large-school level in each of the last 11 postseasons. They were area champions as recently as 2016.
Ridge Point, Elsik, Fort Bend Christian clinch district titles
More will likely follow, but at least three Fort Bend area basketball teams wrapped up district championships last week. The list includes a piece of school history as the Ridge Point girls claimed their first title in District 20-6A.
The Panthers, ranked No. 23 in the state by the TABC, improved to 29-4 overall and 13-0 in league play with a 71-59 victory against Travis. They have already surpassed last year’s breakthrough season for the school record in victories. Ridge Point finished 26-9 including its first-ever playoff win last winter.
The Elsik girls will enter the playoffs as the District 23-6A No. 1 seed after improving to 10-1 in league play with a 59-19 victory against Brazoswood. Alief Taylor and Pearland were tied for second at 7-4 with one game remaining.
The Rams have won seven straight since a loss to the Oilers, including a 51-50 thriller against George Ranch and a 46-38 rematch with Pearland. It is Elsik’s first district championship since 2012, one year after its fifth state tournament appearance.
The Fort Bend Christian boys completed a season sweep of defending TAPPS Division II champion Second Baptist, rallying from a 22-point deficit to win 65-62 and wrap up the District 7 crown.
The Eagles are 12-0 in league play and hold one of the best private school records at 27-3, earning a No. 3 ranking by the TABC. They are 2-0 against the SPC, have two wins against TAPPS Division I schools and defeated Scarborough, Pasadena, Jersey Village and Hastings to win the Gold Bracket at the Eric Medina Memorial Christmas Classic.
George Ranch is tied for the District 23-6A lead with Dawson at 8-3 after a 44-41 triumph against the Eagles to even the season series. Of greater significance, the Longhorns achieved the first 20-win season in school history with three games left in the regular season.
No. 19 Elkins is closing in on the District 20-6A championship, though Bush handed the Knights their first defeat, 65-55. The Broncos moved into a second-place tie at 8-3 with Ridge Point and Travis, all chasing the 10-1 Knights. While the playoff qualifiers are decided, seeding remains unsettled.
No. 12 Hightower is staying on the heels of first-place Shadow Creek, which is 13-1 in 24-5A and ranked No. 9. The Hurricanes are 11-2.
No. 21 Needville maintained its lead in District 25-4A, pushing its record to 8-1 with a 77-46 rout of El Campo. Fulshear (7-3) and Wharton (6-3) are still in the race for the top seed, while Sealy and Stafford hold the fourth spot at 5-4. Stafford’s girls are already assured of a playoff spot, improving to 8-3 with a 70-55 win against third-place Royal.