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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Future of Women’s Basketball on Display in WBCA All-America Game

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Photo Caption: Odyssey Sims (Irving MacArthur High School, Irving, TX) receives the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National High School Player of the Year Award from the WBCA CEO Beth Bass (right). Though Sims, who is headed to Baylor next year, was named to the WBCA’s High School All-American Team’s White squad, she tore her ACL in late February and was unable to play.

Photo Credit: Courtesy WBCA/Kelly Kline

By Lee Michaelson

Sixteen of the top high school girls’ players in the nation took center stage at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, Saturday evening to entertain a crowd of several thousand coaches and fans at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s (WBCA) High School All-America Game. The event was part of the Final Four festivities of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament and the WBCA’s annual convention which is being held in San Antonio from April 2 through April 6.

Twenty female high school seniors were named to the WBCA’s All-American teams, which were divided into Red and White squads for the game. Unlike the McDonald’s All-American Game, which divides squads geographically into East and West regions, the WBCA’s All-American Selection Committee endeavors to divide the talent equitably between the two squads in an effort to create teams as evenly balanced as possible, without regard to geography or the players’ current or future schools.

In this case, it appears that the Selection Committee did a great job of choosing the talented teens who were honored as All Americans, but missed the mark in terms of balancing the teams. Though the White Team struck first blood on a free throw (one of a pair) by 6-5 center Karla Gilbert (A&M Consolidated High School, College Station, Texas), the Red Team dominated much of the game from the early going, leading 48-37 at the half and ultimately breezing to a 101-81 win.

But for the players, the honor of being there, plus the intensity of the environment, meant more than who won or who lost.

“It was such an unbelievable honor to be on the Final Four court for the first time and be in the midst of great players and have such high competition, said Stanford-bound Chiney Ogwumike (Cy-Fair High School, Cypress, TX), the White Team MVP, who described herself and fellow All-Americans as “starstruck” at being in the presence of players such as Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Jayne Appel and Kelsey Griffin. Though the prep stars didn’t get much of a chance to interact with the elite collegians, simply passing them in the corridor and knowing they were playing on the same court that would decide the NCAA National Championship this weekend was more than enough, Ogwumike, and Red Team MVP Chelsea Gray (Saint Mary’s High School, Manteca, CA), a Duke signee, agreed.

“It may not have been demonstrated on the score board, but we worked hard and learned a lot by playing through adversity and trying to come back. This game was definitely a memorable experience for me.”

Photo Caption: Chelsea Gray, MVP of the WBCA All-American Red Team (far left) and Chiney Ogwumike, MVP of the White Team (far right) receive their MVP trophies from WBCA CEO Beth Bass (center) and two honorary ball kids.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Tennessee-bound Meighan Simmons (Byron T. Steele High School, Cibolo, TX), who was named MVP of the McDonald’s All-American West squad Wednesday, scored 15 of her team-high 21 points in the first half, to spot the Red Team its early lead; the 5-9 shooting guard also hauled down nine boards, dished two assists, and grabbed two steals. But Simmons achieved her numbers by volume shooting, netting only eight of her 23 (34.8 percent) attempts from the field and one-of-six (16.7 percent) from behind the arc.  She also had a tough time hanging on to the basketball, giving up five of the Red Team’s 25 turnovers.

Future Lady Vol Meighan Simmons soars to the basket for two of her 21 points for the Red Team.
Photo Caption: The White’s Jennifer O’Neill (00), Chiney Ogwumike (13), and Karla Gilbert (34), combine to strip Simmons on this play. Simmons coughed the ball up five times in the game, and combined with poor shooting, the turnovers likely cost her the Red Team’s MVP award, despite her leading the Red Team in scoring.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Instead, it was Chelsea Gray, who notched 18 points on five-of-nine (55.6 percent) field-goal shooting and went two-of-four from long range, who received MVP honors for the Red Team. Gray also grabbed eight rebounds, snatched eight steals and swatted down a block for a complete game.  Unlike her performance in the McDonald’s game, when Gray didn’t seem to want to share the basketball and often forced her shots, this time, Gray allowed the game to come to her and dished out three assists. (Gray, too, proved to be a bit butter-fingered, however, giving up four turnovers.)

Photo Caption: Red Team MVP Chelsea Gray drives for two of her 18 points, as West Assistant Coach Dan Rolfes (background, left) and Honorary Co-Caption Renee Montgomery (background center) of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun look on.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Indeed, all but one of the Red Team’s players notched double figures in this game, as UConn recruit, 5-10 point guard Bria Hartley (North Babylon High School, North Babylon, New York) put up 19 points, to which she added five assists and five steals (but three turnovers).

Photo Caption: Connecticut-bound Bria Hartley (14) goes up for two as Chiney Ogwumike (13) attempts unsuccessfully to block from behind. Hartley had an outstanding game, with 19 points on 7-11 shooting from the field, to which she added five assists and five steals.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Photo Caption: Hartley’s speed, athleticism and flashy style are just plain fun to watch and should provide UConn and its fans four more years of great women’s basketball entertainment.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Five-nine guard Tiffany Moore (Frisco High School, Frisco, TX), a Longhorn signee, notched 14 points, grabbed six rebounds, dished six assists (but game up seven turnovers); 6-3 forward Natasha Howard (Morrison R. Waite High School, Toledo, OH), a Florida State commit, logged 13 points and grabbed six rebounds, adding two assists, a block and a steal (but three turnovers); and 6-2 forward Samarie Walker (Chaminade-Julienne Catholic High School, West Carrolton, OH), who is headed for UConn next season, posted the game’s only double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, plus two steals, an assist and a block.

Photo Caption: Samarie Walker posted the game’s only double-double, with 10 points and 10 boards.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

The Red’s Tiffany Moore (12) slips her defender, Afure Jemerigbe (4), and takes to the air for two of her 14 points (including two three-balls). Moore added six boards and six assists, but gave up a team-high seven turnovers.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Six-three forward Cassie Harberts (San Clemente High School, San Clemente, CA) notched just six points for the Red, but it was she who broke the century mark in the final seconds of the game on a driving lay-up. (Harberts could easily have had more; she has a frustrating tendency to hesitate when open at mid-range, repeatedly passing up good looks and instead driving into crowds where she was then unable to get a shot off. Whether this is indicative of a limited range, or just the need to grow more confident as a shooter, remains to be seen, but is something Michael Cooper will have to work on with her when she heads to USC next year.)

Photo Caption: Cassie Harberts puts the Red Team over the 100-point mark with nine seconds left to play on a driving lay-up that began with a steal by Chelsea Gray and culminated in an assist by Bria Hartley. The Red seemed to mesh much better as a team for much of the game.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Five-nine point guard Lauren Avant (Lausanne Collegiate School, Memphis, TN), a future Lady Vol; 5-11 shooting guard Kristen Doherty (Sachem East High School, Holtsville, NY), who is headed to Boston College; and 6-0 wing Richa Jackson (Midwest City High School, Midwest City, OK), who has signed with Duke, were all named to the Red Team, but did not play.

“I was born and raised in Texas and what a great honor for me to coach and be a part of such a prestigious game,” said Red Team coach Teri Morrison (Southlake Carroll High School, Mesquite, TX), who was assisted on the sidelines by Dan Rolfes (Incarnate Word Academy, St. Louis, MO). “We had balanced scoring, which is rare for an All-America game, and I was blessed to have a team full of kids who were willing to do anything they could.”

The star of the White Team was Ogwumike, whose sister Nneka (Stanford) was on hand to cheer her on. Chiney, who will be returning the favor tomorrow, was named MVP of the White Team after posting a game-high 24 points and grabbed two boards and three steals, but turned the ball over three times. Ogwumike also demonstrated her leadership in a team of equals, encouraging her teammates with her enthusiasm even when they were down by as many as 24 points in the second half.

Photo Caption: (Left) White Team MVP Chiney Ogwumike drops in an impressive reverse lay-up under pressure for two of her game-high 24 points.Photo Caption: (Right) Ogwumike brought the full bag of tricks. Here she extends to her full six feet-three inches to knock down a jumper. Ogwumike was 9-18 from the field and 1-3 from beyond the arc.
Photo Credits: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Five-six point guard Jennifer O’Neill (St. Michael Academy, Bronx, NY), who will be attending Kentucky next season, contributed 15 points for the White Team, nine of them in the early going. She added two rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block but coughed the ball up six times.

Photo Caption: Future Kentucky Wildcat Jennifer O’Neill had a big night, notching 15 points on 6-8 from the field and 2-3 from beyond the arc. She also added two boards, two assists, two steals and a block, but needs to work on her ball handling to take her game to the next level.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Six-foot guard Lindsay Sherbert (Great Oak High School, Temecula, CA), a Cal signee, was the only other White Team player who reached double figures, chipping in 11 points and grabbing seven boards to go with two assists and two steals.

Photo Caption: Lindsay Sherbert heads to the hole for two of her 11 points on the day. Sherbert, who will be joining the Cal Bears next season, added seven boards, two assists and two steals to her stat line.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

The White Team, who held a significant height advantage, controlled the boards by a narrow edge, 49-45 (20-17 on the offensive glass), which they they turned into 14 second-chance points (to just nine for the Red). They also were better able to throw fresh bodies into the fray, as nine of the 10 players named to the team participated. (The last, Odyssey Sims, who suffered an ACL tear in late February, was on hand to cheer on her teammates and collect her award as the WBCA National High School Player of the Year.)

Photo Caption: Six-five center Karla Gilbert was on fire in the McDonald’s All-American game earlier this week, but was held to just seven points in the WBCA game, five of those coming at the line. Gilbert did grab seven boards, however, to tie with teammates Sara James and Lindsay Sherbert on the boards.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

But the Red led in virtually every other category. “They had the height advantage, but my guards just out-shot them,” said Williams afterward.

Photo Caption: Afure Jemerigbe’s night was emblematic of the shooting woes of much of the White Squad. Jemerigbe repeatedly drove the lane, only to find her shots blocked or deflected by Red defenders. She finished with just six points, on regrettable 2-9 shooting from the field, 0-4 from long range, but found other ways to contribute, grabbing five boards, dishing two assists, and swiping a steal, and providing a harassing presence on defense.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

Indeed they did. The Red shot 46.8 percent from the field, to 38 percent for the White. The Red went 28.9 percent (7-18) from beyond the arc, while the White were just 25 percent (5-20) from long distance. Despite being out-sized, the Red controlled the paint by a 46-28 margin, garnered 30 points off the White’s 39 turnovers (to just 24 White points off 25 Red turnovers).

Photo Caption: Though the Red’s guard play was outstanding, it wasn’t just the guards who out-shot their White Team counterparts. Natasha Howard went 5-7 from the field, including this three-ball, to log 13 points (plus six boards) for Team Red.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

The Red also controlled the game’s tempo, with 24 fast-break points, to just six for the White team. “Don’t you just love a transition ball game?” Williams enthused.

For Jeff Sink (Brea-Olinda High School, Brea, CA), who coached the White Team with the assistance of Angie Hembree (Norcross High School, Norcross, GA), the likely answer would be: “It depends—on whether you’re running the transition game or it’s being run on you.” But Sink, ever the gentleman, held his tongue and praised the talents of the players on both teams.

Though the players didn’t get to spend much time with the collegians who are busy preparing for their Final Four appearances, they did get to know two WNBA stars—Renee Montgomery (UConn, Connecticut Sun), who served as honorary co-captain of the Red Team, and Angel McCoughtry (Louisville, Atlanta Dream), who filled the same role for the White. And at the same time, women’s basketball fans, both in San Antonio and those around the nation who watched the game on TV, got a great chance to watch some of the future stars of the game, who said they hope to return to play on the Final Four court over the course of their collegiate careers.

Photo Caption: Renee Montgomery, who was traded this summer from the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx to the Connecticut Sun, served as honorary captain of the Red Team. (Angel Montgomery of the Atlanta Dream performed the same role for the White Team.) At the half, Montgomery exhorted her team, “Let’s start the [second] half on a run.” Over the first eight minutes of the second stanza, the starstruck teens responded by extending their 11-point halftime lead to 24 points.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©


Originally published Sat, April 03, 2010

Reader Discussion
Posted by tnvolfan65 April 24, 2010

turnovers are to be expected in all-star games like this…not necessarily an indicator of ball-handling ability on the next level

Posted by tnvolfan65 April 24, 2010

turnovers are to be expected in all-star games like this…not necessarily an indicator of ball-handling ability on the next level

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.