WHO LET THE ’DAWGS IN!? Summer Creek punches ticket to state for 2nd time in 4 years

WHO LET THE DAWGS IN!? Summer Creek punches ticket to state for 2nd time in 4 years (Copyright (c) 2022 VYPE - All rights reserved)

KATY—“It’s the Creek, baby.”

In four words, senior Kaitlyn Duhon essentially summed up the excellence of Summer Creek girls basketball, as the Bulldogs are quickly becoming the face of Houston area girls hoops.

No. 2 state-ranked Summer Creek took down Pearland, 59-42, on Saturday afternoon at the Merrell Center in the Region III-6A final. The Bulldogs won their 20th straight game, and, in doing so, booked their second trip to the state tournament in the last four years.

“It was real from beginning to end,” said Duhon, an Auburn signee who had a game-high 20 points to go with nine rebounds. “Pearland wasn’t letting up, and neither were we. We just wanted it more. I wasn’t going to go home. We weren’t going home. We handled business.

“I’m so proud of us. I’m so excited.”

Pearland (28-10) scored the first six points. The game got off to a sloppy start with the teams combining for 14 turnovers, to 16 total points, in the first quarter.

Neither team got much breathing room until Duhon’s clutch three-point play with one second left in the third quarter awarded Summer Creek a five-point advantage going into the final period.

“At that moment, it gave us momentum,” coach Carlesa Dixon said. “She always comes up big when we need her. We go as she goes. She’s our captain.”

That opened the floodgates for Summer Creek, which got out to an 8-2 run to start the fourth. The Bulldogs, who hit three of their five 3s in the fourth quarter, outscored the Oilers 22-10 in the final period.

“I don’t think we’ve started a game down 6-0 all season,” Dixon said. “For them to stay calm and not get rattled, that was our whole focus. Play basketball, do what we do, and see what the outcome is.”

Aside from Duhon, Summer Creek was buoyed by a pair of precocious sophomores at timely moments of the game. Janiya Murphy made big play after big play, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds. Torran Deterville was clutch in the fourth, scoring eight of her 10 points in the period, including back-to-back triples to push the lead into double figures.

“It gives me hope for the future,” Dixon said. “The fact they weren’t afraid of the moment. For them not understanding what this moment is, it’s good. They’re young, but we have a lot of confidence in them.”

Pearland, which stayed admirably close most of the game with its physicality, size, and aggressiveness, eventually ran out of gas. Junior RyLee Grays scored 19 points. Senior Aryelle Stevens had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Pearland slowed the game and sought out contact, getting to the free-throw line 30 times to Summer Creek’s 17. But Pearland only made 15 free throws, and never had enough offensive consistency whenever it wasn’t drawing fouls.

The Oilers, in the regional final for the first time since 1991, were simply outmatched. Summer Creek had more talent and depth. The Bulldogs’ defense was relentless, forcing 22 turnovers after forcing 20 in their regional semifinal win Friday.

“That’s our bread and butter,” Dixon said. “We struggled to score in the offensive sets, and we know when we have trouble scoring, turn the defense up. Turn defense into offense. That’s our thing.”

Three Bulldogs (Duhon, Murphy, Deterville) scored in double figures, with senior Anahlynn Murray adding seven points and junior Jorynn Ross finishing with six.

“I’m just thankful and proud,” Dixon said. “People don’t understand how hard those girls work. I run those girls into the ground preseason, during the season, and they never complained. They knew what it takes. Most of them were freshmen, eighth graders, the last time we did this before (in 2019), and they’ve wanted it since that moment. They came to San Antonio when we went. They said it from day one when they got on campus, that’s what they wanted. To see them get a chance to do it, it’s special.”

Duhon said it’s a credit to Dixon and a group of players that is coachable and plays well together. It starts with Duhon and Ross, a transfer last summer who had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead Friday’s regional semifinal win over Dulles.

Dixon said Ross had to learn to accept that she was no longer the No. 1 option on a team. She did. Duhon had to learn to share the ball and acclimate Ross as another premier playmaker. She did.

“It’s been amazing,” Duhon said. “We’ve won a lot of different ways. We’ve played different teams. We’ve played different atmospheres. We’re always locked in. We have energy. We have people coming off the bench giving the same energy the starters are giving.”

Dixon said the team will celebrate this weekend. Come Monday, however, it’s back to basics.

“Enjoy this moment, because not everybody gets to have this moment. But remain hungry and stay humble,” Dixon said. “It’s not over.”