High School Girls Basketball

Falcons continue dominance, earn 19-6A title

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 2/4/20

Mia Hill remembers the lean days of Tompkins girls basketball. A varsity player since her freshman year, she often looks back on when the Falcons were little more than an afterthought.

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High School Girls Basketball

Falcons continue dominance, earn 19-6A title

Posted

Mia Hill remembers the lean days of Tompkins girls basketball. A varsity player since her freshman year, she often looks back on when the Falcons were little more than an afterthought.

But these days, she can bring up those memories with a smile. As in, look how far they’ve come. With a 44-38 win over Katy on Tuesday, Feb. 4, the Falcons improved to 10-0 in District 19-6A, 31-3 overall, to secure the program’s first district championship.

It’s been a remarkable recovery. In Hill’s freshman season in 2o16-17, Tompkins won three games in district play, nine overall. In 2017-18, the Falcons went 5-7 in district, 14-16 overall, to make the playoffs. Last year, they missed the postseason by one game in a 16-win season.

This season? Sheer dominance.

“It feels really great,” said Hill, who had six points and five rebounds against Katy. “This is something I’ve talked about with my teammates, as far as this being a goal and to leave high school being remembered.

“In the beginning, we were working hard but it just wasn’t translating onto the court. So, just knowing that even though we started where we did, being here and being able to enjoy this moment of doing something special is really important.”

Katy (7-3 in 19-6A) led 15-12 after the first quarter, but Tompkins went to a hard press to open the second quarter that sparked a 10-0 run.

From there, the Falcons led by as many as nine points and no fewer than four against a resilient Katy team that won the district title in undefeated fashion last season.

“We knew Katy had to win to give them a chance to get a piece (of the district title), and we knew they were coming for us,” said coach Tamatha Ray, who has been at the helm of the Falcons all seven years of its existence. “It’s hard to go undefeated and it’s hard to be the new guy that’s never even been first or second. The best we’ve finished is third. Just the fight the girls showed … I’m proud of them. I have no words.”

Tompkins’ defense led the way. The Falcons—playing a heavy mix of zone and press—forced 17 turnovers and held the Tigers to 5-of-26 shooting from 3-point range.

Freshman Loghan Johnson scored 13 points, all in the first half, to pace Tompkins, though she battled foul trouble early and often in the second half. Junior Crystal Smith added 10 points. Hill and freshman Fiyin Adeleye scored six points apiece. Adeleye had eight rebounds.

“We really wanted to stay composed,” junior post Mackenzie Durnford said. “We knew if we played our game and kept it going, we’d be fine. I thought we did a good job staying mentally tough and not getting frustrated with the foul count or anything. Our seniors and captains stepped up, and that’s the big thing.”

Mental toughness has been Tompkins’ M.O. all season. Durnford said that comes from the offseason conditioning and drills, which have punishing consequences if not done right.

Ray said it’s what separates this year’s Falcons from the 2015-2016 regional semifinalist team that won eight games in district play and 29 overall.

“This is not to discredit the ’15-16 team, but for this team, the major difference is the coachability,” Ray said. “The player accountability they have … I’m just a sideline piece. They’re the ones that make it all work. They’ve been bought in and they’ve made this theirs. This team doesn’t let games slip away. That stuff is hard to measure.”

Ray said since these seniors’ sophomore year, that 2017-18 campaign that produced a playoff berth, she has emphasized team play and leadership. Eight seniors are on this year’s Falcons roster, but only one—Hill—starts.

Ray said her team is “mission-oriented.”

“From the beginning, we set a goal and we knew what we wanted, and we knew what we had to do to get what we wanted,” Hill said. “Our coaches kept us in check. We kept us in check. So, team chemistry and knowing we all had the same goal was big.”

Along with the intangibles, the Falcons also have the physical skill and ability. Johnson and Adeleye are terrific, versatile players and budding superstars in Katy ISD hoops. Smith is a poised floor leader. Her four free throws late in the fourth quarter were crucial.

Hill, Durnford and senior Sovereign Mack add size and rebounding. Katy is a well-coached, talented team but could not get to the basket consistently against the Falcons’ size and length in the frontcourt. Few teams have been able to.

It’s all an ideal mix of experience, youth, athleticism and playmaking. It’s also why a district title is not enough.

Surpassing the impact of that 2015-16 team remains first and foremost on these Falcons’ minds.

“We’re really excited,” Durnford said. “But now we can check this off the list and move on. Our coaches have been tough on us about how far we want to go and how far we want to get, so we’re all bought in. There’s more work to do.”

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