High School Volleyball

Texas power programs do battle in state semis

TWHS Skylar Scott. Photo by Jerry Baker

Originally appeared on Vype.com.

So, can the Hebron Hawks be knocked off their perch a top Class 6A volleyball?

The Hawks have won back-to-back state titles. The last team to do that was… The Woodlands. The Woodlands and Hebron do battle Friday night in the UIL State Semis in Garland, Texas, and one of these power programs will be the odd-on favorites to win the Class 6A title.

The Highlanders and Hawks faced off in the John Turner Classic earlier this season and battle it out in a best of three sets, where the Hawks won.

“It was a crazy competitive match,” The Woodlands Terri Wade said. “When we watch the film over, it was a battle of great players. This is going to be about who is going to make the least amount of errors.”

The Woodlands is led by setter Sophie Walls (Miami-signee) and hitters Courtney Heiser (Texas State), Dylan Maberry (LSU) and AJ Koele (Mississippi State). The defensive star is Georgia Murphy (Oregon) along with Skylar Scott.

“We have three hitters with over 400 kills a piece,” she said. “We run a fast offense and Sophie never comes off the floor. She runs the offense and is aggressive. No one compete like her. She’s a vocal leader and has improved so much over the past three years.”

This is Wade’s first state final appearance at The Woodlands and is trying to quell her excitement.

“Just the anxiety of being competitive is what fuels me,” she said. “We aren’t going to talk about what Hebron does. We just worry about what we can control. We have faced some great teams this season, so we are ready.”

Hebron counters with Minnesota-commit Adanna Rollins (469 kills) and Emma Clothier (351 kills) up front and San Diego-signee Annie Benbow on defense. The Hawks have a lofty No. 2 ranking in the state of Texas and have won four title over the past 12 years.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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