FCP logo

Full Court Press

FCPrep logo

Friday, July 19, 2019

They’re Number One: Brea Olinda High Takes Nike Tournament of Champions Title

Article Lead Image

Photo Caption: They’re No. 1! The Ladycats from Brea Olinda High School (CA) will be the No. 1 high school girls’ basketball team in the nation after beating a field of elite teams from across the country, including a come-from-behind 56-48 win over Long Beach Poly in the title game of the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler, Arizona, Wednesday. UCLA-bound Justine Hartman (front row, right) was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after impressive performances in both the championship game and in the Ladycats’ semifinal win over Bolingbrook (IL).

Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

By Kenny Kallina

The basketball was as good as it gets in high school Wednesday night in the packed Hamilton High gym in Chandler, Arizona, that hosted the finals of the 15th Annual Nike Tournament of Champions, one of the most prestigious events in girls’ high school basketball. Two Southern California teams, Brea Olinda High School and Long Beach Poly, had spent the past three days duking it out with some of the best teams in the sport, drawn from across the country, for the right to compete in the title game.

They did not disappoint. In a game that was hard fought and close from start until the parade to the foul line began in the final minute—Poly trailed by just one point, 48-49, with a little less than three minutes remaining but the absence of a shot clock in girls’ high school basketball forced a succession of fouls in the end game—Brea overcome a five-point halftime deficit to take a 56-48 win in the tournament’s elite Joe Smith Division. Along with the Nike Tournament of Champions title comes a No. 1 national ranking for the Brea Ladycats—at least for now, as there is a lot of high school basketball still ahead of us.

The championship game was a rematch of a meeting between the same two teams earlier the season in which the Brea Olinda Ladycats had gotten the upper hand over the Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits by a 60-53 margin. But there was a lot more on the line this time around—a national title, to be precise.

The game was a case study in contrasting styles. Poly’s roster is paced with speedy, agile athletes; they thrive on an up-tempo—at times, helter-skelter—style of play. To win the game, they needed to maintain the up-tempo pace they favor, demand a high number of possessions, and put more than 60 points on the scoreboard. Brea certainly has good athletes of its own, but its long suit is its physical strength and high-level of execution. They needed to slow the pace, limit the Jackrabbits’ trips up and down the floor and hold them under 50 to win the game.

In the opening half, Poly succeeded in creating the pace they wanted, and it looked like Brea would be unable either to slow the pace or to match it.  Poly raced out to a 17-14 lead in the first quarter, led by senior Tajanae Winston’s seven points. By the half, Poly had expanded its lead to 31-26.

One of the few bright spots for Brea was Justine Hartman’s 14 first-half points. The UCLA-bound Hartman is one of the top recruits in the country, but many had written off the 6-2 center as a major player in this event due to an ACL injury. She had partially torn the ligament in the knee during tryouts for a club team in the spring of 2008, but at the time was able to avoid surgery. She reinjured the knee last year—coincidentally, in Brea’s December 4, 2009 victory over Poly—prematurely ending her season. After undergoing surgery to repair the knee, Hartman sat out the rest of her junior year, and her minutes in Brea’s first eight games of this year have been limited as a precautionary measure while she continued to recover. But the only evidence of injury that Hartman showed in this game was the brace she wears on her right knee while on the court. Hartman’s performance in the first half was the main reason the game didn’t end as a celebration of Long Beach.

At the half, Coach Jeff Sink of Brea decided he might not be able to control every aspect of the game but he was certainly going to demand that his team do more to limit the chances that Poly had to score the ball. The Ladycats succeeded in executing that game plan over the course of the second half. By lengthening each half-court possession, Brea was able to hold Poly to only eight third-quarter points and and to nine points in the fourth quarter.

The ability of Brea point guard Alexis Riley-Perry to weather the Jackrabbit pressure, make good decisions, and protect the ball played a key role in the second-half turnaround. Riley-Perry has had injury problems of her, the most recent among them coming last Saturday when she collided with an opposing player in the opening game of the tournament and injured her shoulder so badly she had to be carted off the court on a stretcher. At the time, her ability to return seemed doubtful, but return she did, and in a big way.

Along with Perry’s great decision-making and and ability to manage the game according to Sinks’s scheme, Brea just made shots. Brea hit layups, free throws, and open jump shots as Poly was unsuccessfully trying to fire the game back up into a track meet. After giving up 31 first-half points, Brea was able to limit Poly to just 17 in the second half while scoring 30 points of their own.

Another key to the Ladycats’ 56-48 win—their second victory of the young season over this Southern California rival—was their ability to contain Poly star Ariya Crook-Williams. A night after scoring 20-plus to lead her team to victory over a Mater Dei team that had, until Tuesday night, been number one in the country, Crook-Williams was all but invisible with only 12 points in the game; she was also responsible for several big turnovers in the third quarter as Poly lost the lead, the momentum, and eventually the game. That being said, Crook-Williams put on an unbelievable show the night before and landed on the All-Tournament Team along with teammate Sheila Boykin.

Top honors, however, went to Justine Hartman, who saved Brea in the first half and finished the game with 22 points and numerous big plays on defense, including four blocks. Only a little more than a year after a major knee injury, Hartman’s performance earned her a spot among the elite group of players who have been named Nike Tournament of Champions MVPs. Alexis Riley-Perry, who controlled the pace of the second half, joined Hartman, Crook-Williams, and Boykin on the All-Tournament Team.

Before the tournament got underway, many had expected the reigning champions Mater Dei, another Southern California power, and highly ranked Bolingbrook of Illinois to match up against each other in an East - West final to decide which of them would be the number one girls’ high school basketball team in America. Indeed, the Mater Dei Monarchs and the Bolingbrook Raiders did end up facing off against each other, but wound up clear way across town, tucked away from the championship site to battle over third place in the Nike Tournament of Champions—no small accomplishment in its own right, but still, not what either of them came for.

Early on in that “bronze medal” match-up, it looked like Mater Dei had been so deflated by their semifinal loss that they were just ready to go home and open Christmas presents. Bolingbrook led, 15-6, at the end of the first quarter thanks to 10 big points from Morgan Tuck. But by the half, Mater Dei had answered that challenge and tied the game at 21. Junior Alexas Williamson led the Monarchs with eight first-half points.

Mater Dei stormed out to a 22-point third quarter. By the end of three, it looked like it was Bolingbrook that had its mind on its Christmas presents, as the Monarchs led, 43-31, behind 13 third-quarter points by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. In the end, the fourth quarter was trivial as Mater Dei just poured it on. The Monarchs finished their Tournament of Champions run in third place, at 3-1, with a 61-48 win over Bolingbrook, who dropped their second consecutive tournament game. Mosqueda-Lewis,who finished with 26 points, and teammate Alexyz Vaioletama were named to the All-Tournament team.

Tuck had a good game with 20 points and Massengale, whose performance over the course of the tournament was good enough to earn her a berth on the All-Tournament team, finished with this one with eight. But just as had been the case in the Raiders’ semifinal loss to Brea, once Mater Dei started scoring, as well as playing some team defense and keeping Bolingbrook stars Massengale and Tuck out of the paint, nobody else on the Raiders’ side stepped up to fill the void. Who knows what might have been if anyone other than Massengale and Tuck had shown up in Arizona to play for the team from the Chicago suburbs! 

Other members of the All-Tournament team from the Joe Smith Division were 6-3 post Cortnee Walton, a junior from St Mary’s (AZ), which finished in sixth place with a 71-66 win over New York’s Christ the King; 5-9 guard Bria Smith of Christ the King, who will be appearing next year in the uniform of a Virginia Cavalier; Notre Dame-bound Madison Cable, a 6-0 guard from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Mt. Lebanon High, which finished in 12th place after losing to Highlands Ranch, 48-47; and 5-7 point guard Tyonna Williams of Maryland’s Riverdale Baptist, which finished in fifth place with a 60-56 win over Monarch. Williams will be headed to Temple next year.

Check back later for more photographs and news from the tournament.


Originally published Thu, December 23, 2010

Reader Discussion

Please Log in or, if you are not yet a member, Register to use the full features of this site.

Women's Basketball Calendar

July 2019
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 1 2 3 4

Game of the Day

Friday, July 19, 2019

Today's Top Games

For a full calendar and related details on upcoming nationally televised and Top 25 games, as well as past game scores, and other women's basketball games of interest, click on the link "Women's Basketball Calendar" above.


Try Advanced Search

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.
Rank remains unchanged since last week
Ranking has risen since last week.
Ranking has dropped since last week.
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.