Texas-bound Atkins leads Cy-Fair to Nike Nationals title



NORTH AUGUSTA — Ariel Atkins celebrated her birthday Tuesday winning a prestigious AAU tournament. Later in the evening, she said she’d really enjoy the day when she returned to Texas to see family and friends.

Cy-Fair received its own present when Atkins agreed to join the team in July.

The University of Texas-bound forward scored a game-high 31 points as the Shock defeated the Cal Stars, 69-59, in the Nike Nationals championship at Riverview Park.

“She’s such a great player, I don’t have the words to describe what a great kid she is,” Shock coach Katie Hensle said. “Her coming in was never a problem.”

Cy-Fair, which claimed its first Nike Nationals title, is a Texas-based team named after two cities (Cypress and Fairbanks) located just outside Houston. The Shock defeated All Ohio in the semifinals Tuesday morning to advance to the championship.

The Cal Stars led late in the first half until Atkins converted a three-point play just before halftime. Cy-Fair led by one at intermission and never looked back.

Atkins swished a 3-pointer five minutes into the second half to push the lead to 51-43. Kennedy Leonard followed with a layup. After a Cal Stars free throw, Atkins swished two foul shots. The Shock led 57-44.

Atkins scored 18 points in the second half.

Point guard Brooke McCarty added six of her 14 points after halftime as the Shock pulled away for the win.

“We calmed down,” Atkins said. “We were rushing and speeding and not playing our game at first. I think we were really hyped to start the game. Once we listened to coach Katie and did what she told us to do, we played as a team.”

Atkins and McCarty went out in style, claiming victory in their final AAU tournament. After one more year in high school, they’ll each play ball together at Texas, a move McCarty is looking forward to.

“We’re basically the same player,” she said. “When I see something, she already knows. So it’s easy to get along with her on the court.”