New Hope Academy, champions of 2018 Allen Hoopfest (PC: Bob Corwin)
By Bob Corwin
It is hard to win a prestigious event once. This past weekend Duncanville High School won its fourth (seven in last eight years) in a row at the 15 th Annual (for girls play) McDonald’s Texas Invitational (held in Deer Park and Pasadena, Texas). Meanwhile, New Hope Academy came back from an early loss in pool play to triumph at the 18th Annual Allen Lady Eagle Hoopfest (held at Allen High School in Allen, Texas). Both events ran November 15-17.
(Note: The events were about 300 miles apart requiring a late-night drive from Deer Park to Allen on November 15 in order to attend both.)
The Texas Invitational (with presenting sponsor McDonald’s, the goal is to raise money for the Deer Park and Pasadena ISD’s [independent school districts] which put on the event) had 32 teams divided into two 16-team divisions based on anticipated strength of team. Allen (sponsored by Cynergy Consultations, Inc. and run by Allen High School) had teams assigned to pools of four teams (28 total) with winner going to Championship, second to Gold, third to Silver and fourth to Bronze Bracket, all at Allen High School with three gyms within easy walking distance.
McDonald's Texas Invitational Final
Duncanville 64-45 Humble Summer Creek
Duncanville High School led the final 33-22 at the half, breaking the game open in the fourth quarter (leading 46-37 after 3 quarters) with fast breaks and inside scoring. Duncanville was led by All-tournament selectee Deja Kelly (see below) with 18 points and Tournament MVP Hannah Gusters (see below) with 15 points. Summer Creek was led by Maliyah Johnson (see below) with 12 points.
The semi-final was Duncanville’s toughest game defeating Converse Judson 58-53. Gusters led 33 points followed by Kelly with 11.
Duncanville has now won the Texas Invitational in seven of the last eight years including the last four in a row.
As to why her team attends the McDonald’s Texas Invitational, Duncanville Coach Cathy Self-Morgan commented “it is good competition, different from the Dallas Metroplex area. It takes us out of our comfort zone.
"It takes good physical and mental conditioning in what could be termed the Texas pre-district games. We play 12 games in 12 days (some days two games in a day). I try to test our team’s capabilities in the first two weeks of the season."
"You got to have a team that buys into it. It sets us up for what comes later in the post-season march toward the state title run."
As to this team, Coach continued “this is a very young group [heavy to sophomores and juniors]. Every time we play we are growing and getting better.”
Deja Kelly (#25) and Hannah Gusters of Duncanville High School (PC: Bob Corwin)
Allen Lady Eagle Hoopfest Final
New Hope Academy 71-43 Allen
Coming into the top division final, New Hope (Landover Hills, Maryland) had struggled to beat a spirited but less talented Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) 56-52 while Allen defeated previously undefeated Sachse 51-43 appearing to be the favorite in the final.
Post-game, New Hope Coach Sam Caldwell said Allen wanting to push pace was a more favorable match-up compared to Prestonwood which aimed for a slower tempo, be it failing in the end.
New Hope led 14-0 out of the gate, 19-6 at the quarter and 34-14 at half, appearing to be the fresher team compared to the hosts. Allen’s Nyah Green (see below) triggered a run to start the second half to cut the lead to 34-22. Enter New Hope’s Jada Walker (event MVP; see below for more information) who shut the door domination the second half with 17 points (21 for the game). Delixia Pinnick (see below) contributed 16 in the final for New Hope. Green led Allen with 18 points.
Post-tournament, New Hope Coach Sam Caldwell commented “Texas basketball is extremely competitive as I believed it would be with every last one of those teams [played]. They had major Division 1 players.”
“We were opening up at this event and looking to see how we would gel. We grew up really quickly as we had to deal with some adversity.” “This is a first class event with great facilities.”
As in 2017, host Allen made the final but came of short of taking the title. No team in the event went undefeated with New Hope losing to Cedar Hill High School in pool play but advancing to the top bracket on tie-break (fewest points allowed).
Jada Walker of New Hope Academy (PC: Bob Corwin)
Looking at some of the individual talent in alphabetical order with height, position and school within graduation year. Location of school is in parenthesis. Players seen at the McDonald's Texas Invitational are denoted with a (*) preceding the name.
Amaya Brannon, 5-11, small forward, 2021, Plano West High School (Plano, Texas)
Brannon plays with good energy and can get to the rim going left or right. Power 5 schools should be monitoring.
*Corina Carter, 5-6, point guard, 2019, Judson High School (Converse, Texas)
Carter can get on a roll attacking going to her strong left or shooting perimeter shots. Committed to New Mexico, on occasion she needs to keep things simple rather than go for the flashy. At the Texas Invitational, she helped her team reach the final four.
Kyra White (22) and Corina Carter of Judson High School (PC: Bob Corwin)
Avery Crouse, 5-10, small forward, 2019, Sachse High School (Sachse, Texas)
Committed to El Paso, Crouse is a shooter who prefers the baseline area. Compared to last year, she appears to be playing with more confidence. She helped her team reach the final four at Allen.
*DeYona Gaston, 6-2, forward, 2020, Pearland High School (Pearland, Texas)
Gaston was likely the single most dominant player (less around her) at the Texas Invitational. A high quality athlete able to post up or attack from the perimeter, she is nearly impossible to stop if she gets the ball into the key. Considered one of the top juniors in the USA, she still could build her shooting range.
Nyah Green, 6-0, small forward, 2019, Allen High School (Allen, Texas)
Committed to Louisville, Green can attack the basket with authority. Being new to the program (played at Allen as a freshman), she appeared to defer to teammates more often than one might expect from a team’s star player. Finding the right balance as to when to take over is often tricky.
*Hannah Gusters, 6-4, center, 2020, Duncanville High School (Duncanville, Texas)
Gusters is considered one of the top 2020 post prospects nationally. Her game is very old-school with post moves around the basket using her height and strength.
*Rori Harmon, 5-6, point guard, 2021, Cypress Creek High School (Houston, Texas)
Harmon combines strong handles with good quickness, hang time, vision and basketball IQ. One of the top point guards in the 2021 class, she needs to build shooting range to become an even more complete player.
Camryn Hill, 5-10, forward, 2020, South Grand Prairie High School (Grand Prairie, Texas)
Hill showed mental strength in the crisis holding her team together as things were going south during one game at Allen. Athletic, she looks to attack the basket first but can face-up at mid-range. She has Division 1 offers on the table.
*Kyndall Hunter, 5-8, shooting guard, 2021, Cypress Creek High School (Houston, Texas)
A good athlete, Hunter has a solid perimeter stroke inside and beyond the arc. Power 5 schools are pursuing.
Jazion Jackson, 5-7, point guard, 2019, Skyline High School (Dallas, Texas)
A North Texas commit, Jackson plays hard. She showed a refuse to-lose attitude driving hard to the rim as opportunities presented themselves.
Kiersten Johnson, 6-2, center, 2022, Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas)
Just learning her way, Johnson has Power 5 written all over her game. She runs well, is agile and has good hands.
*Maliyah Johnson, 6-3, center, 2020, Summer Creek High School (Humble, Texas)
An athletic lefty, Johnson runs well. She can dribble with her right hand but needs to improve use of right hand in finishing near the rim and at the foul line. She has Power 5 offers.
*Ashlyn Jones, 6-0, guard/forward, 2021, Klein Oak High School (Spring, Texas)
An athletic lefty, Jones is light on her feet. She needs to improve use of right hand plus add consistent shooting range. Power 5 schools should be monitoring.
*Deja Kelly, 5-8, point guard, 2020, Duncanville High School (Duncanville, Texas)
Kelly has a steadying hand in running the Duncanville offense. Right handed, she likes to go left to attack. She has Power 5 offers.
Kelsey Kurak, 5-9, small forward, 2019, Liberty High School (Frisco, Texas)
An unsigned senior, Kurak posted 36 points in one outing at Allen. She showed she can hit the three (liking the baseline area). She also attacked the basket some.
*Tommisha Lampkin, 6-2, center/forward, 2020, Mansfield Summit High School (Mansfield, Texas)
A strong presence in the key, Lampkin is hard to stop close to the rim. On defense she showed a shot blocking presence. Power 5 schools are lining up.
Jasmyn Lott, 5-7, point guard, 2022, Memorial High School (Frisco, Texas)
Lott showed much variety and productivity in Allen. She will push the ball in the open court, can hit the floater (I would rather see a pull-up!) and showed a mid-range stroke off the catch. Power 5 schools should be monitoring her maturation.
Jordyn Newsome, 5-8, guard, 2021, MacArthur High School (Irving, Texas)
Newsome is normally her team’s shooting guard but in watching her, you would think she was a point guard. She has decent handles, good court vision and IQ, perimeter stroke and an ability to attack with either hand. Currently, mid-majors are the top of her offers. Look for Power 5 schools to knock on the door before too long.
Dajinae McCarty, 5-8, point guard, 2019, Cedar Hill High School (Cedar Hill, Texas)
Committed to Wichita State, McCarty helped her team win the second bracket at Allen. She plays hard and can succeed in attacking the basket or taking the perimeter shot.
Jaden Owens, 5-9, point guard, 2019, Plano West High School (Plano, Texas)
Owens was likely the best player at Allen, helping her team to win the third division. Committed to UCLA, she has strong handles, vision and an ability to get to the rim scoring or giving it up along the way.
Delixia Pinnick, 5-7, shooting guard, 2020, New Hope Academy (Landover Hills, Maryland)
In Allen, Pinnick had a couple of very strong 3-point shooting games. Occasionally, she showed a drive but it is the exception rather than the rule. Division 1 schools should be monitoring her progress.
*Zaya Price, 5-10, shooting guard, 2020, Steele High School (Cibolo, Texas)
Steele is a talented team and Price is one of those talents. A decent athlete, she can attack the basket but also hit perimeter shots inside and beyond the arc. She has Power 5 interest according to the word in the gym.
*Elizabeth Scott, 6-1, power forward, 2019, Klein Oak High School (Spring, Texas)
Committed to Oklahoma, Scott has a strong build and is not afraid to use it to attack the basket. She suffered a knee injury (hopefully not serious) at McDonald's Invitational.
Amy Taylor, 5-9, small forward, 2019, Allen High School (Allen, Texas)
An unsigned lefty , Taylor gives you intangibles that coaches love. She averages over 8 rebounds per game (according to team stats), tips a lot of balls on D, hits the floor for loose balls, raises her team’s intensity and scores some (not always her greatest contribution). At Allen, sometimes her efforts helped extend a possession with another teammate scoring.
*Shadiya Thomas, 5-9, point guard, 2020, Cypress Ranch High School (Cypress, Texas)
Thomas showed a steady demeanor in running the Cy Ranch offense. She can hit the three but will drive it some. D1 programs should be monitoring her maturation.
Jada Walker, 5-6, point guard, 2021, New Hope Academy (Landover Hills, Maryland)
A Power 5 prospect, Walker may not have great physical presence but this lefty has game. She can score behind the arc, at mid-range and at the rim (more than willing to dish off). With all the elements there, just consistency is needed.
Jordan Webster, 5-9, guard/forward, 2020, Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas)
Webster had a couple of big scoring games at Allen. She looks to get open and shoot the three. More skilled than athletic, she is getting Division 1 interest due to her range.
*Kyra White, 6-0, shooting guard, 2019, Judson High School (Converse, Texas)
Committed to Southern Cal, White combines the ability to hit the three (7 in one game at Allen) with more than average athleticism and good size for a wing.
Jordyn Newsome, MacArthur
Jaden Owens, Plano West
Amy Taylor of Allen High School (PC: Bob Corwin)