Commentary

Championship Saturday

Updated: March 7, 2010, 11:21 AM ET
By Chris Hansen | HoopGurlz

Chiney OgwumikeChris Hansen/ESPN.com Chiney Ogwumike's focus and intensity were unmatched in her state tournament.

AUSTIN, Texas -- One question in Texas that hovered over Cypress Fairbanks High School (Cypress, Texas) is whether its star player and the top-ranked senior in the country, Chiney Ogwumike, could win a state championship without her older sister, Nneka, now a sophomore star at Stanford. That question was answered Saturday night at the University of Texas Frank Erwin Center when Cy Fair squared off against Hightower (Fort Bend, Texas) for the 5A state championship.

A hot start leading to a 27-4 opening quarter by Cy Fair took some of the anticipation from the latter part of its eventual 65-41 win. Their early ball pressure was relentless and, with dynamic passing and tremendous athletes, the Bobcats converted early and often.

"I have no clue what happened," Ogwumike said of the team's fast start. "We were just bulldogs trying to get everybody fired up and it worked. We just went defense first."

Ogwumike doled out punishment to both Cedar Hill and Hightower en route to her second state title. The only crack in the proverbial armor was a dismal performance from the free-throw line during the semifinal when she converted just four of her 11 attempts, which probably is splitting hairs when you consider she scored 24 points and grabbed 25 rebounds. Her rebounding total set a 5A state tournament record for boards in a single game and she was just one rebound shy of the overall state record set in 1982 at the 2A level.

[+] EnlargeCassie Peoples
Chris Hansen/ESPN.com Texas-bound junior guard Cassie Peoples' passing and scoring was on point during the state tournament.

The championship game was more of the same with a sliver of extra intensity and focus for Ogwumike and her Bobcat teammates. The connection she has with junior guard Cassie Peoples is matched by few at the high -chool level. They feed off each other and know exactly how each other will react in most situations. They even have a dummy call they named "motion", which they call when an offensive set is breaking down. When one says "motion" Ogwumike steps out to set a ball-screen and the two, in their words, "go to work."

Both put in serious work in the championship game with one theme -- redemption. Peoples registered 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists on top of handling Hightower's constant traps in the backcourt, while Ogwumike won MVP honors for her 31-point, 18-rebound, 4-steal, 3-block performance.

The supporting cast for the dynamic duo did their part as well, swarming Hurricanes from the tip and forcing quick shots and turnovers. The Cy Fair guards held Hightower's two star guards, Brittney Matthew and Azalea Hall, to a combined 5 for 22 shooting from the floor and with Ogwumike roaming in the paint the usually stout post game was also slowed.

In both of Ogwumike's championship runs she pointed to the prior season's disappointment. She won her first title as a sophomore, when Nneka was a senior, with a 50-33 domination of Desoto. The year prior they were heavy favorites but fell to Rockwall 59-54. A season ago, again heavy favorites, the Bobcats lost to Mansfield Summitt, the only team to beat them this season.

[+] EnlargeChiney Ogwumike
Chris Hansen/ESPN.com Chiney Ogwumike collects her state tournament MVP award.

"This year it hits equally as hard because that was my last game," Ogwumike said of the impact of her second championship. "This is the last time I'm wearing this jersey"

The mythical girls' basketball national championship may be decided at the end of the month at the California state tournament but this week Cy Fair could have played with anyone in the country. Ogwumike was as good as her ranking and hype and Peoples, ranked as the No. 24 junior in the country by ESPN HoopGurlz, may have been better than advertised. The two had an answer for every challenge thrown their way.

Class 4A

Timberview (Mansfield) was simply not going to be denied its state championship and came out with terrific defensive intensity, limiting Wakeland (Frisco) to single-digit scoring in all but one quarter and just 39 total points.

The Wolves were led to their 55-39 victory by standout senior guards Maegan Conwright (Kentucky signee) and Keena Mays (Kansas signee). Conwright scored a game high 16 points while Mays finished with 10 rebounds, nine points and five assists.

Freshman guard Kinell Texada led Wakeland in scoring with 13 points.

Class 3A

Liberty-Eylau's (Texarkana) only lead of the game came in overtime on an Imani Wright 3-pointer and the Leopards were able to hang on to it for a 70-68 victory over Wylie (Abilene).

Both Wylie and Liberty-Eylau went to war with two senior leaders and a budding underclass star at its disposal. Wylie jumped out to an early lead and never allowed Liberty-Eylau to catch up until late in the fourth quarter. With an endless string of strange and heart-breaking breaks for both teams - five-second calls, three in the key, traveling, and even a violation for an inbounder not returning to the court quick enough following the inbound pass.

Sophomore Petyon Little socred a game-high 27 points and had a game-tying 3-point shot taken away on a traveling call and just before the final buzzer she created a great look off the dribble from the left wing that went half way down before spinning out of the rim.

[+] EnlargeKamy Cole
Chris Hansen/ESPN.com Sophomore guard Kamy Cole and her aerial, attacking game helped Brock to the 2A title.

Class 2A

By far the loudest crowd of the tournament was for the 2A finale between Brock, the defending state champion, and Wall. The Erwin Center's burnt orange was drowned out by a sea of Brock blue and Wall green. An early surge by Brock gave the Lady Eagles enough room to weather Wall's comeback as they successfully defended their title iwtha 38-33 win.

Brock's senior post Kenisha Harris and sophomore guard Kamy Cole each had 15 points and both shot 6 for 10 from the field to lead the way. Harris also grabbed 10 rebounds to complete the double-double.

Wall was led by the 10 points and five rebounds of senior forward Karli Kellermeier.

Class A -- Division I

The story of this game was Smyer sophomore forward Haley Fowler whose 35 points tied her for the third highest total in a Class A tournament game. Martin's Mill was never out of the game but shooting 25.9 percent from the field compared to the 42.9 percent of Smyer was too much to overcome.

Fowler scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds during the first half alone. The Lady Cats employed a unique zone defense to crowd Martin's Mill leader Emily Williams who operates at the high post a lot. The result is leaving senior forward Kelsey Tarrant open on the wing. With no defender within six feet Smyer dared her to shoot. The strategy worked as Tarrant was one of nine in the first 16 minutes of play and finished just one of 13 for the game.

Junior guard Emily Williams led Martin's Mill with 13 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Taylor Munn scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds.

Class A -- Division II

Neches High School stormed out to a 21-12 first quarter lead and then turned up the defense even more in the second quarter, holding McLean to just three points in the period, en route to a 61-32 victory.

Neches finished with three players scoring in double figures  Roddricka Patton with 15, Kelcie Kinder 14, and Raven McFarland 10. The only Lady Tiger not to score was senior LaToya Barrett who got just one shot off in her two minutes of action.

McLean's senior star Sheri Haynes and Alexis Menefield finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively, but as a team McLean shot just over 25 percent in the game.

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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at chris.hansen@espn3.com.