TWCA junior Benigni is The Courier’s Player of the Year | #schoolshooting



Following the graduation of four all-state seniors, The Woodlands Christian Academy had some big shoes to fill this season.

Austin Benigni stepped up, and then some.

As a sophomore last season, Benigni played a key role as the Warriors won the TAPPS Class 4A state title. As a junior, he led TWCA to its first Class 5A crown.

For his all-around game, consistency, and ability to step up when his team needed him most, Benigni is The Courier’s Player of the Year.

“From a leadership standpoint, you know Austin’s always going to lead by example,” TWCA coach Tanner Field said. “In the classroom he’s just as amazing, in the weight room he’s just as amazing and from an effort standpoint, he’s always going to give his teammates 100 percent. Everybody is constantly trying to match that. He brings a lot of confidence for our team.”

Benigni delivered the confidence this season in one critical moment — right before the state title game.

“On the bus ride over, we got super confident because (Benigni) was just so comfortable,” Field said. “Somebody on Twitter out of Dallas projected that (Benigni) would score 29 points, but we didn’t have enough to beat Fort Worth Christian. That kind of put our team in underdog mode and when you do that to us, it just got us geared up.”

SUPERLATIVES

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Austin Benigni, Jr., TWCA

TAPPS All-State First Team – 20 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.6 steals per game.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Connor Lindvall, Sr., Magnolia

District 19-5A Co-MVP – 22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals per game.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Brock Luechtefeld, Sr., The Woodlands

District 13-6A Co-MVP – 14.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game, 61 percent shooting.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Zion Pipkin, Fr., TWCA

TAPPS All-State Second Team – 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.6 steals per game.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Tanner Field, TWCA

Led program to third state championship in four years after moving up to larger classification.

ALL-COUNTY FIRST TEAM

G – Ty Buckmon, Jr., College Park

District 13-6A Co-MVP – 13.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals per game, 40 percent shooting from 3.

G – Drew Calderon, Sr., College Park

District 13-6A Offensive POY – 15.9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals per game, 46 percent shooting from 3.

G – Luke Currier, Jr., Porter

District 20-5A First Team – 17.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 2.7 steals, 1.9 blocks per game, 48 percent shooting.

F – Chanse Perkins, Jr., TWCA

TAPPS All-State Second Team – 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2.7 steals per game.

F – Hudson Boyd, Sr., Lake Creek

District 20-5A Offensive POY – 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals per game, 46 percent shooting.

ALL-COUNTY SECOND TEAM

G – Jordan Fitch, Sr., Lake Creek

District 20-5A First Team – 14.3 points, 5.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2 steals per game, 41 percent shooting.

G – Marvin Dock, Sr., College Park

District 13-6A Co-Defensive POY – 10.4 points, 2.8 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals per game.

G – Shey Eberwein, Soph., The Woodlands

District 13-6A Co-Newcomer of the Year – 11 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals per game.

F – Colby Christian, Sr., Porter

District 20-5A First Team – 15.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.4 steals, 2.1 blocks per game, 44 percent shooting.

F – Jaxon Olvera, Soph., New Caney

District 20-5A First Team – 14.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game.


The tweeter was half right. Benigni did score 29 points (on 53 percent shooting and added six rebounds, four assists and three steals).

The wrong prediction was the result. TWCA won 60-47 to claim the program’s seventh state title.

Benigni averaged 20 points, 4.8 rebounds, four assists and 2.6 steals per game in his junior season. He scored 20 or more points 13 times and his season high was 43. He shot 46 percent from the field and 54 percent inside the arc.

In 30 games played, Benigni had a positive plus/minus in all but seven. He finished the season with 13-straight games in the positive, and all but two were positive in the double digits.

“Relentless competitor,” Field said of the guard. “He’s going to compete at the highest level every time he goes out and that’s a difference-maker for him that most people can’t match. Down the stretch, especially in the playoffs, he just played really, really good basketball.”

The TAPPS All-State First Team selection has four college offers according to 247Sports – IUPUI, McNeese State, Morgan State and Mount St. Mary’s.

With continued growth this offseason and during his senior year, Field expects that list to grow.

“I want him to become a better manager,” Field said. “It’s so important for his growth at the next level. As a point guard in college, the expectation is you don’t have bad days. You’ve always got to be bringing the energy in practice. You’re in that leadership/management role. I think the Michael Jordans and Kobes of the world had an innate ability of getting guys to rise up to their level. Austin’s a phenomenal player. Next year, I want to see how he gets his teammates to rise to his level.”

OFFENSIVE MVP: Connor Lindvall, Sr., Magnolia

Connor Lindvall had a choice to make as his senior year approached.

“He popped out his sophomore year and had a lot of confidence and did a good job,” Magnolia coach Derek Cain said in a recent phone interview. “I would almost say he had a little bit of a slump, for him, his junior year. He still started every game and played well and we made the playoffs and everything, but as far as shooting and scoring he had a little slump.”

COVID-19 interrupted much of the summer and fall leading into Lindvall’s senior year. It could’ve been a time to coast, but the guard chose hard work over complacency.

“In my experience, most players going into their senior year, especially if they’ve been on varsity for two years, they kind of think they’ve made it and don’t have to work as hard,” Cain said. “They think they’ll get a little better because they’ll be older and they’ll be fine. (Lindvall) went out and really tried to take his game to the next level and worked to make his senior year something special.”

Lindvall surpassed 1,000 career points during his senior year and led his team to the area round for the first time since his freshman year.

For his stick-to-itiveness and ability to succeed despite constant defensive attention, Lindvall is The Courier’s Offensive MVP.

The Magnolia senior was named the District 19-5A Co-MVP after averaging 22 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals per game.

Most opponents knew stopping Magnolia meant stopping Lindvall. Slowing the senior guard was the best most teams could hope for, and some couldn’t even do that.

“I thought the most impressive thing was that everybody, especially in round two of our district, everybody knew they had to stop Connor to beat us and they couldn’t do it,” Cain said. “I’ve had other players where you could game plan against them, but he was just so mobile and quick and he could finish at the rim, he could finish from mid-range and he could shoot the 3 from past NBA range. He was difficult to stop and willing to let the game come to him and take over when he needed to.”

Lindvall led the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in 19-5A and a bi-district win over Cleveland. While the scoring was surely a standout part of his game, Cain says there was much more than that to like.

“One of the biggest compliments I can give him is his teammates wanted him to shoot the ball and wanted him to score,” Cain said. “That’s because he was a great teammate himself.”

DEFENSIVE MVP: Brock Luechtefeld, Sr., The Woodlands

It’s easy to spot Brock Luechtefeld, both on the court and in everyday life.

Luechtefeld, a 6-foot-7 post player, was able to find teammates on offense and score on his own as well, but one his greatest strengths might have been his growth on the defensive end in his senior season.

“He was great for us in so many ways, but his size really helps neutralize any kind of size we went up against,” The Woodlands coach Dale Reed said. “One thing about Brock is he got better every single year and this year, he was even able to get out and guard people out on the perimeter as well, so really helped us as far as matchups.”

For his versatility, the workload he handled, and his success under pressure, Luechtefeld is The Courier’s Defensive MVP.

The senior post player shared the MVP superlative in District 13-6A following a season with averages of 14.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game to go along with 61 percent shooting.

Being a post player who could handle the ball well and defend, Reed wanted Luechtefeld on the court more often than not. He averaged 25.2 minutes per game and played 28 or more minutes 10 times.

A main reason Luechtefeld could handle big minutes was his ability to stay out of foul trouble. In 29 games played, he fouled out just once and had four fouls only three times.

“The only game he did foul out was because he got a technical that shouldn’t have been on him,” Reed said. “He was really smart with that kind of stuff. He did get in some foul trouble every once in a while, but usually we could just sit him for a few minutes and he’d play really smart. His intelligence was a big asset to his game.”

Luechtefeld was reliable as an offensive player as well, only shooting under 40 percent from the field in a game three times in his senior year. He was better than 70 percent from the floor on eight occasions, including three perfect shooting days. He garnered attention inside and was able to then kick the ball out to shooters.

What kept Luecchtefeld on the court, though, was his ability to be a two-way player.

“It’s very valuable because he can do so many things,” Reed said. “He was a matchup nightmare for whoever we played on the offensive end and he can still stay on the court on the defensive end. You’ll see some people who won’t play their big because they can’t compete on the defensive end.”

After graduation this spring, Luechtefeld will compete at Southwestern University in Austin.

“It was a joy to coach him,” Reed said. “This year he was an outstanding captain and leader for us. It was very cool to watch him progress throughout his high school career.”

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Zion Pipkin, Fr., TWCA

Before he had even played a game in high school, Zion Pipkin was called the “best freshman in the city of Houston” by TWCA coach Tanner Field.

In his third game, Pipkin scored 11 points as the Warriors came from behind to beat Premier Academy.

In his fourth game, the freshman made a strong case to prove his coach’s assertion with 32 points and eight rebounds against Houston Christian.



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