Girls basketball: Wolves set sights on state
Westside head girls basketball coach Troy Gillespie doesn't like to compare teams, but he's willing to make an exception.
Gillespie, in his fifth season at the helm, said his current Wolves squad reminds him of his first one. That's high praise, considering his maiden team, featuring an all-star cast led by Sydney Colson (Texas A&M), finished 36-3 overall, upset nationally ranked Cy-Fair in the Class 5A playoffs and advanced all the way to the Class 5A-Region III championship game.
"I think this year's team compares favorably, only we're a little deeper," Gillespie said. "We don't have another Sydney, but we have 13 girls and all of them can play."
Having a few extra bodies is helpful, considering Gillespie's demanding, physical style of ball.
"It should allow us to keep everyone fresh and substitute in certain situations," Gillespie said.
Westside's starting five is among the most talented in District 20-5A, certainly on par with defending champion Bellaire.
The Wolves, 21-11 a year ago, got a boost with the return of senior Rachel Cumbo, a 5-foot-10 shooting guard, from a knee injury. Cumbo, a highly touted college prospect, was sidelined all of last season with a knee injury, but she averaged eight points as a sophomore.
"We're thrilled to have Rachel back on the court," Gillespie said. "Her offensive game is better than ever. She's shooting light's out. Her defense seems to be coming along every day."
Alexis Hill, a 5-7 junior, has inherited the point guard duties from former standout Teylor Seals. Hill, a returning second-team, all-district performer, contributed five points off the bench a year ago.
"Alexis is in her first year at point guard, but she's learning fast," Gillespie said. "Alexis missed her eighth- and ninth-grade seasons because of injuries, but she's made up a lot of ground over the past year. She's worked hard over the summer and it's paying off."
The third guard in the starting backcourt is 5-10 senior Brittany Powers. Powers sat out last season after playing her first two seasons at Dekaney, but she could one of the league's top newcomers.
"Brittany might be one of the most talented girls I've had the privilege of coaching," Gillespie said. "She's got the quickness of a point guard with the size of a post. She does a little bit of everything."
Things also could get interesting now that Tiffany Davis, a 5-9 junior, is done with volleyball. Davis was a starter last season, putting up 13 points and three assists while earning first-team, all-district honors. She will be in contention for one of the guard spots.
"I expect Tiffany to be out there any day now," Gillespie said. "She's a Division I-caliber player. She's utterly awesome. She can score, defend, pass the ball … there are no limits to what she can do."
Teisa Jones, a 5-8 senior, is the forward. Jones may be undersized, but it didn't prevent her from averaging six points and eight rebounds and making second-team, all-district.
"Teisa is a natural leader who brings incredible intensity to the floor," Gillespie said. "Teisa may be only 5-8, but she's guarded girls who are 6-5. She's fearless."
Erin Luton, a 6-0 senior, is back at center after averaging a double double (10 points, 10 boards). Luton, like Davis, was a first-team, all-district pick.
"Erin, in my opinion, is one of the better posts in the city," Gillespie said. "She's so strong inside the paint."
Westside also will benefit from the versatility of junior Jamiyla DeBoise, a 6-0 guard/post. DeBoise also made second-team, all-district.
Three sophomores — 5-5 point guards Jasmine King and Nykala Richards and 5-9 guard Briana Luton - figure to command quality minutes.
Other key reserves include 5-6 senior guards Delecia Robertson and Jade Rogers and 5-10 junior post Audrey Sturges.
Gillespie is confident that Westside has the tools to challenge Bellaire, ranked No. 20 in the state in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' preseason poll, for the District 20-5A crown. He felt the Wolves let the Cardinals off the hook last season.
"In the first game, we were up by 21 points in the fourth quarter and fell apart. I'll take the heat for that," Gillespie said. "Bellaire has a fantastic team, but Westside will be the district champion this year. You can put that down."
Gillespie thinks Region III is loaded with state-ranked teams such as No. 1 Hightower, No. 8 Cy-Fair, No. 9 Cy Falls and No. 12 Elsik, but he is convinced Westside can hold its own with the area's elite.
"This year's team has the potential to be our best ever," Gillespie said. "I'm not afraid to say it. It's up to us to make it happen."
Local Advertising by PaperG