ALDINE - Poor free throw shooting and a sluggish start gave the Manvel Lady Mavericks plenty of fits during Saturday’s Class 5A Region III Girls’ Basketball final.
Add the inside presence of Winnie Kuimi, though, and the Lady Mavs’ fate was ultimately sealed in a 47-39 season-ending defeat to Hightower at the M.O. Campbell Center.
Manvel, who advanced to Saturday’s final with a 70-57 semifinal triumph over College Station on Friday, closes its stellar season at 37-4. The 38-2 Lady Hurricanes earned a berth to the state tournament in Austin this week with the semifinal round getting under way Thursday night at the Alamodome.
Saturday’s game marked the fourth meeting between the 24-5A powers with Hightower emerging on top for the third time. Kuimi proved to be a big factor in last weekend’s showdown with the 6-4 senior leading the Lady Hurricanes with 16 points, half of which came on offensive rebound putbacks. Aresa Gipson added nine points for Hightower and Destni Lombard chipped in eight points.
Texas A&M signee Mckinzie Green closed her high school career with a game-high 17 points for Manvel, while Deja Williams pumped in nine points and Ashlynn Freeman provided eight points. However, the Lady Mavs were plagued by both misses at the charity stripe (10 of 21) and only a 13-point first half.
Tight defense by the Lady Hurricanes also shut down the penetration lanes to the bucket for Manvel, which played a major role in the Lady Mavs’ home win over Hightower over a month ago.
The Lady Mavs, who trailed by as many as 16, pulled with two late at 40-38 on Green’s three-pointer from the top of the key with 2:14 remaining in the fourth, but Hightower outscored Manvel by a 7-1 count the rest of the way to gain its first trip to the state tourney since 2010.
The finish in Saturday’s final provided a stark contrast to Manvel’s fortunes from the semifinal a day earlier with the Lady Mavs holding the upper hand for the entire 32 minutes.
Green delivered a game-high 25 points, along with five rebounds and four steals, while Anessa Dussette just missed a double double with 21 points and nine rebounds and Williams contributed 17 points to give head coach Bryan Harris three players in double figures in the scoring column.
“We did a good job of matching their speed, because they were really fast,” Harris said following the game. “No. 10 and 14 (College’s Station’s Mia Rivers and Na`layjah Johnson) can really get after it. They were a very young, but a well coached team.
“I told our girls all week that this was kind of our sister program. You look in the mirror and they (College Station) do what we do. They’re fast and they got a lot of quick guards.”
The Lady Mavs managed to exploit College Station’s youth early on, taking an 11-8 lead after one period and then outscoring the Lady Cougars by a 27-14 margin during the second quarter.
Williams’ full court drive to the hoop sparked a 20-7 run for Manvel, which also featured a trey by Green and an offensive rebound bucket inside by Dussette off a missed free throw.
Manvel led 38-22 at intermission and increased their cushion to as much as 22 in the third at 52-30 with a little under three minutes left, thanks to eight straight Green tallies.
“Mckinzie is so dynamic and a hard guard,” Harris said. “Anyone in the state is going to have a hard time guarding her.”
The Lady Cougars cut Manvel’s lead to 54-39 heading into the fourth and then went on a 12-4 run, capped by Alexys King Grice’s field goal to pull within 58-51 midway with 3:48 left. However, Green went to work again with the 5-6 senior draining a pair of free throws and then coaxing a Lady Cougar to mishandle a tipped pass out of bounds.
Manvel never looked back from there.
Williams combined with Dussette to convert 7 of 8 attempts at the free throw line in the closing minutes. The senior duo complemented Dani Perdomo’s uncontested lay-in to put the game out of reach.
“We saw them against Rockwall and Pflugerville where they were down big and they came back and never gave up,” Harris said. “We instilled to our kids that they’re going to give up.
“They (College Station) made about three or four runs in the game that were really making me sweat. It was so good to get this win, though, and give our kids this experience of success, because they deserved it.”
Manvel went 15-1 during district play to earn the No. 1 playoff seed, also earning postseason wins over Houston Northside (82-18), Friendswood (65-33) and Shadow Creek (66-51).
The Mavs were making their third region tourney appearance in school history and their first since winning the state title in 2014.
PA Memorial 46 Shadow Creek 36 - The Sharks fell to the Titans for the second straight year in the 5A boys’ area playoff round Friday night in La Porte.
Shadow Creek, who close their season at 26-6, led 28-25 entering the final period and 32- 31 with five minutes left in the contest, but Memorial went on an 8-0 run to take control.
Kenneth Loftin led the way for Memorial with 14 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple double and the Titans also dominated the boards by a 32- 21 count.
Tyron Henry paced the Sharks, who led 9-8 after the first period, with 13 points.
Shadow Creek entered the postseason as the top seed from 24-5A and knocked off Houston Austin by a 74-43 count in the bi-district round.