Heavy hitters hold court at Mansfield Invitational Tournament

January 2, 2014 - 12:43am
Pflugerville (Tex.) High School senior Stephanie Onyeje helped lead the Panthers to the championship of the Mansfield Invitational Tournament with her explosive athleticism over the Christmas-New Years holiday weekend. (Photo by Simmie Colson)

Pflugerville (Tex.) High School senior Stephanie Onyeje helped lead the Panthers to the championship of the Mansfield Invitational Tournament with her explosive athleticism over the Christmas-New Years holiday weekend. (Photo by Simmie Colson)

MANSFIELD, Tex. - Last weekend's Mansfield Invitational Tournament attracted a number of heavy hitters to this burb just outside Fort Worth, Tex. The event drew numerous state championship contenders from multiple regions throughout the state, including the ultimate holiday tournament champion, Pflugerville High School, who just might be the best team I’ve seen in Region 2, along with Cibolo Steele from Region 4. Both teams made it to state last season in the 5A classification, while Aledo High School did the same in class 4A. To give you an idea just how competitive this tournament was, on its march to the title, Pflugerville,  the 16th-ranked team in the state coming into the weekend event, beat the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh-ranked teams in Texas over the course of two days by a combined total of 54 points.

As can be expected when the top teams come together in head-to-head competition, the tournament also showcased more than a few elite high school recruits. Here's a quick look at some of the standouts:

Class of 2015

Alyssa Echols: 5-7 guard, Pflugerville High School, Pflugerville Tex. (Abilene Christian University signee). Echols, the tournament MVP, was smooth as silk under pressure, coming up with big baskets when her team most needed them. Her midrange was clicking, as well as her defense.

Stephanie Onyeje: 5-7 guard, Pflugerville High School, Pflugerville, Tex. (UT-Pan American signee). Onyeje simply explodes off the dribble past defenders. She attacks the basket as well as anyone and more importantly finishes through contact. She anticipates very well on defense, leading to many steals for this all-tournament selectee.

Jalea Bennett: 6-0 forward, Timberview High School, Mansfield, Tex. (Arizona signee). Bennett has had a college-ready body for some time, and her ability to score inside caught my eye years ago. Fast forward to her senior year, and this athletic post now has the three-ball working as well, and has learned to take control on both ends of the floor.

Jazmine Holman: 5-8 guard, Bowie High School, Arlington, Tex. (Incarnate Word signee). Solid and consistent is the best way to describe Holman's play during this event. At times you didn’t realize the impact Holman had until you went back and checked the box score --  and Holman, who was named to the all-tournament team, is most definitely one of those players who fills up a stat sheet.

Terriell Bradley; 5-10 guard, Timberview High School, Mansfield, Tex. (Kansas signee). Bradley has ice water running through her veins -- nothing fazes or flusters her, ever. She’s a player who can take over a game, but perhaps more important, this all-tournament point guard consistently makes her teammates better.

Mackenzie Calvert: 5-9 guard, Steele High School, Cibolo, Tex. (Southern California signee). No one plays harder baseline-to-baseline, the whole game, than Mackenzie Calvert, ranked No. 21 in her class in the Full Court Fresh 50Jo. Her defense has always been a strength and her offense has evolved over the years. She’s an and-one waiting to happen and her scoring ability is nothing short of eye-catching.

Morgan Easley: 5-11 forward, Marcus High School, Flower Mound, Tex. (Texas Women's University signee) Easey is definitely the key to her team's ability to make a run to the state title. She can control the tempo on both ends and she does it within the flow of the game. She can be a nightmare for defenders as well as offensive players as she brings and applies heat.

Class of 2015

Tana Driver: 5-1 guard, MacArthur High School, Irving, Tex.  Driver is simply one of those players that has the "it" factor, and "it" is something you just can't teach. She is a big-time player who makes pivotal plays on both ends of the floor, knows how to get her team going and has shown she can take over a game against some of the top competition around. Without a doubt, she's among the top point guards in the state.

Jordan Moore: 6-3 forward, Stony Point High School, Round Rock, Tex. I watched Moore do some amazing things over the summer, like dunk in pregame warm-ups, and her performance at the Mansfield Invitational did not disappoint. Her 36 points on the closing day was just three points away from the tournament record; at times, she simply looks simply unstoppable.

Justis Szczepanski-Beavers: 6-4 forward, Aledo High School, Aledo, Tex. Szcepanski-Beavers' attack from the wing is simply a work of art. She’s one of the top unsung players in her class you may not know about: She plays around the square (I’m talking about the one behind the rim), and her athleticism brings chills in the open court.

Class of 2016

Lexy Hightower: 5-7 guard, Amarillo High School, Amarillo, Tex. I glanced at the paper the day before the tournament tipped off, and noticed this talented sophomore had dropped 35 on an opponent. After watching Hightower live, I came away even more impressed. She can handle the ball, attack and finish against anyone -- or just for fun, she can step back and drain threes and midrange jumpers at will.

Class of 2017

Patterson sidelines With talent and poise well beyond her years, North Shore High School freshman Chasity Patterson is a player to keep an eye on. (Photo by Simmie Colson).

Chasity Patterson: 5-6 guard, North Shore High School, Houston, Tex. When Patterson was just In the sixth grade, I called her, “The Future.” Three years later, this diminutive frosh is one of the top prospects in her class. Her poise is years ahead of her age, and she’s already taking games over while remaining in the flow of the game.  The scary thing about Patterson is that she has so much time left to develop.