Highschool Basketball

Falcons book flight to San Antonio, Tompkins tops Alief Taylor 60-43

Tompkins coach Bobby Sanders raises the net after cutting it down as Region III-6A Champions vype.com

HOUSTON – With 1:24 left on the clock and his team leading by 16, Tompkins coach Bobby Sanders finally let it all soak in.

Sanders turned to the packed student section placed right behind the Falcons’ bench and started applauding them. The gesture sent the crowd into and frenzy and signaled to them to start the celebration.

Tompkins – a team that had never won a playoff game in program history – had just won its fifth-straight, beating Alief Taylor 60-43 in the Region III-6A Final on Saturday to punch its ticket to San Antonio.

“We’re making history right now,” Tompkins senior CJ Washington said.

Tompkins (29-8) becomes the first-ever Katy ISD boys basketball program to make it to the state tournament.

The Falcons are only the second basketball team, girls or boys, to make the tournament joining the 1990 Mayde Creek Rams girls basketball team.

“When I interviewed for this job five years ago, I told my principal I made it to the Regional Finals as a player and lost in overtime,” Tompkins coach Bobby Sanders, a graduate of Royal High School in Brookshire, Texas, said. “My goal was to get this group of guys to the state tournament and it feels really good to be the first Katy team to do it.”

Alief Taylor finishes the season at 24-13 after making it to the Regional Finals for the first time in program history.

To get to this point, the Lions had to defeat District 24-6A Champion Dickinson, District 21-6A Champion Atascocita and District 18-6A Champion Sam Houston making it a memorable run for the Lions.

“That’s a pretty good run,” Alief Taylor coach Jeff Durnford said. “I’m proud of them. I told them at some point, they’re hurting right now, but you know how it goes, they recover quicker than the coaches do. Tomorrow, in a week or at spring break, they’ll realize they can be proud of what they did.

“It was a great three weeks, like I told them those don’t happen often. So enjoy it, we did, it was a nice run.”

Alief Taylor was able to stay close to Tompkins for the first half, thanks in part to Joe Ogunbanjo’s 11-point first quarter to be within four, trailing 20-16 after one.

Leading 32-27 heading into the third quarter, Tompkins turned up the heat.

Led by Washington, who finished with a game-high 20 points, Jamal Bieniemy, who had 12 and Emmanuel White’s 10 points, the Falcons pulled away.

“I just pick whenever I want to attack,” Bieniemy said. “Just be smart with it and not force anything because I know my guys are good enough if I have a bad game or an off night we can still win. So I just pick when I attack.”

Tompkins opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run and eventually outscore Alief Taylor 15-5 in the frame to extend the lead from just five to 15 heading into the fourth.

“We knew coming out of halftime we knew we just wanted to come in and knew that offensively it wasn’t going to be an up and down offensive game,” Tompkins senior Eden Holt said. “We knew it was going to come down to stops. So that’s what we wanted to do and lock in on. “Make stops.”

Down by 15, the Lions cut the lead down to 12 with 4:33 to go but that would be as close as they would get in the eventual 60-43 loss.

Ogunbanjo finished as the Lions’ leading scorer with 11 points, followed by Kavin Ezekwe’s eight and Victor Irhirhi’s nine.

“We ran into a really good team today,” Durnford said. “Basketball’s a game of matchups. There’s a lot of skill on the floor there all over the place. Five players they put on the floor that can shoot it and drive it. That’s a tough matchup for anybody.”

Tompkins now sets its sight on San Antonio where South Garland, Westlake and Allen await the Falcons.

The UIL will release the matchup information sometime in the coming days but both Class 6A State Semifinal games will be played on Friday  at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. inside the Alamodome.

“The players were talking about it in August,” Sanders said about making State. “We weren’t talking about it until late in the season, February is when I realized we could do it. I didn’t know if we had what it took on defense but they showed tonight we did.”

One of the keys to success to the Falcons’ run to State, Sanders said not only has been the players of course but the packed student section behind them.

“That’s an outstanding student section,” he said. “Compared to any team we’ve played none compare.”

Sanders hopes to see the students fill the Alamodome stands on Friday in San Antonio and a natural next question was if the Tompkins High School would be in session or not to allow travel.

“They shouldn’t,” Sanders said with a laugh. “We should not have school. Hopefully we won’t.”


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The Rockets got a steal at No. 3 overall. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images.

With the Astros absorbing their worst loss of the season Thursday night at the Yankees, here's to the Rockets! Wait, what? It's only educated guess work, but in landing Jabari Smith out of Auburn the Rockets had a spectacular night. Heaven knows they have had very few of those the last two years. After having to settle for the third pick in the NBA Draft despite being the worst team in the league again, in Smith the Rockets got the best player in the Draft. Of course Smith could be an epic flop, it’s very inexact science. But Orlando taking Paolo Banchero from Duke first then Oklahoma City selecting Gonzaga beanpole Chet Holmgren second left the "surest thing" two-way player on the board. Through most of the run-up to the draft the six-foot-10 inch Banchero was most commonly projected to the Rockets. It's not as if he would have been a bad choice as a player. Banchero certainly could turn out to be the best player in this draft class. But his game is skewed toward his offensive skills, his fit in Houston would have been quite questionable. The also 6-10 Smith has shown the vastly better outside shooting ability, and is indisputably more athletic and better equipped to defend at a higher level and with more versatility. Jabari Smith is not going to be Kevin Durant or Kevin Garnett. Let's at least call it extreeeeemely unlikely given very few in the history of the planet come close to those guys, still, envisioning Smith providing some KD and KG level moments on both ends of the floor is pretty, pretty, pretty good.

The Rockets' defense was an absolute joke last season. Little to no improvement was shown as the death march of 2021-22 dragged on and on and on to its 20-62 finish. Frankly if Head Coach Stephen Silas can't demand/develop vastly improved D this coming season he'll deserve and need to be fired. The Rockets love Alperen Sengun, and his rookie season offense showed both flair and promise. Defensively he was one of many parts of the joke. Just 20 years old late next month so some improvement should come, but Sengun is slow. Quick twitch muscles, slow. Lateral movement, slow. He’s not long, not a leaper, not thick. Sengun will be hard-pressed to become an average defender. In today's game he's the kind of big who quality small-ball opponents play off the court. Banchero would have been a lousy defensive pairing with Sengun. Smith-Sengun has a chance. Smith as a small-ball center has potential. Christian Wood was a dog, not in a good way. Smith’s character grades are very high.

The seven-foot 194 pound Holmgren has a fascinating array of skills. He could be Rudy Gobert defensively with way better offense, or a skinny guy who can’t hack it physically. Had the Thunder taken Smith at two, Holmgren to the Rockets would have been interesting. Getting Smith to pair with Jalen Green as the tent poles of the Rockets’ still long way to go reconstruction is more encouraging. With due respect to all the other first round picks added in 2021 and 2022, what Green and Smith become individually and as a tandem is what will foremost determine how long the Rockets remain horrible. It could go pretty well for the duo and the Rockets could still be awful for multiple more years. A third consecutive losing season is virtual certainty. By the end of it though at least a few meaningful rays of light at the end of the tunnel need to be peeking through.

As for the other two first rounders added Thursday night, both are interesting darts at the board. Tari Eason out of LSU brings defensive chops and size (six-foot-eight) for his position, a combo that exactly zero returning Rockets have. Jae’Sean Tate plays really hard, but he’s a six-four forward. All their Josh Christophers, Garrison Matthewses, Kenyon Martin Jrs., and David Nwabas add up to very little.

No one smart really believes in Kevin Porter Jr. as a long term winning point guard growth stock. TyTy Washington should get some rookie run at the point. He’s the only non-worthless to the team ex-Kentucky point guard on the Rockets’ roster. Yes, John Wall and his 47.3 million dollar salary are still on the roster.

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