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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Top Talent on Display in Nike Tournament of Champions Quarterfinal Play

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Photo Caption: Quarterfinals play at this year’s Nike Tournament of Champions was both competitive and physical. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of Santa Ana, California’s Mater Dei is on crutches after coming down hard on her ankle. Mosqueda-Lewis promises to return to action to help Mater Dei, the favorite coming into the tournament, take home the hardware, but the jury’s still out—both on Mosqueda-Lewis’s prognosis and on which of the four top-ranked girls’ high school basketball teams still standing will emerge this week as the unofficial national champion. (File photo)

Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

By Kenny Kallina

The top girls’ high school basketball teams from around the nation are on display again this year at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler (just outside Phoenix), Arizona. More than 2,000 student athletes will participate over the two week course of this illustrious tournament, which has become known as the unofficial national championship for high school women’s basketball, but most eyes, including those of the college coaches who flock to the event, will be locked on the premiere Joe Smith Division in session one this week.

Set in Hamilton High School gymnasium, the Joe Smith Division features six of the top 10-nationally ranked girls’ high school teams in the country battling it out for top honors. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA) comes into the tournament ranked No. 1, and is the team to beat, but took a heavy blow when Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, one of the top recruits in the country this year, sprained her ankle after coming down hard on an awkwardly positioned joint. Mosqueda-Lewis had to sit out the rest of yesterday’s quarterfinals games on crutches, but promises to return for today’s semifinals; her availability, however, is still uncertain.

With or without Mosqueda-Lewis, it would be wrong to rule out the other top contenders. No. 2/3 Brea advanced yesterday, as did No. 3/2 Bolingbrook and No. 5/8 Long Beach Poly. That means there will be plenty of competitive play, not just in the Joe Smith Division, but in all six divisions scattered throughout several nearby gyms, over the final two days of Session I. Let’s take a look at some of the top action from Monday’s quarterfinals.

Joe Smith Division

The Joe Smith Division has been like the rest of the women’s basketball word of late—pretty predicable. In Monday’s quarter finals, Mater Dei (Santa Anna, CA) defeated nationally ranked Monarch (Louisville, CO) rather easily, 64-46.

In quarterfinal No. 2 California powerhouse Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, CA) took down Memphis Central (Memphis, TN), also a ranked team, 61-49. It was a disappointing loss for Central who saw Danielle Ballard (2012) sit the final four minutes of the game. These games are not just competitions, they are a teaching exercise, and Ballard was benched after failing to hustle back on a turnover; she never re-entered the game.

Brea Olinda (Brea, CA), a consensus top-five contender, outlasted St. Mary’s (Stockton CA), 65-55, in the closest semifinal in the Joe Smith Division. The game was tight for three periods, as St. Mary’s relied heavily on its trapping and harrying defensive press, but Brea refused to be flustered and by the final period was successfully passing out of it and able to run up a 10-point lead.

In the night cap Bolingbrook (IL) ousted Riverdale Baptist, 67-44. Fans and coaches who stayed to the end saw a very physical game as primo recruit Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook) took a hit that would have drawn a 15-yard penalty and a $25,000 fine in the NFL. Massengale shook it off after a brief interruption in play, and ended up finishing the game.

Three Stars

Morgan Tuck and Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook) - The only place you might be able to see Tennessee (Massengale) and UConn (Tuck) on the same floor at this time of year might be at a Bolingbrook game. This time, however, future stars for the two NCAA women’s basketball powerhouses teamed up and went to work on a talented Riverdale team, showing why they were both on the U17 national team last summer. Tuck, a forward, showed a variety of skills from attacking the basket to facing up and knocking down jumpers. Massengale’s (PG) ability to control the tempo of the game and get to the basket at will eased Bolingbrook into the semifinals tomorrow and this young woman has some hang time that would make Diana Taurasi take notice.

Ariya Crook Williams (2011, USC) - Long Beach Poly - Crook Williams shot it, drove it, passed it and really had her way, as she sliced and diced her way through an athletic Memphis Central team, helping Poly to a double-digit win in the quarterfinals.

Highlights from Other Gyms

In the real game of the day was tucked away in the tournament’s Anderson Division at Perry High School, where Windward (Los Angeles, CA) nosed past Carondelet (Concord, CA) by a single point, 42-41. It was a back-and-forth game two teams that looked like they could hold their own with any of the top teams in the entire event. Carondelet featured Stanford signee Erica Payne (6-2, F) and one of the top shooters in the 2012 class in Hannah Huffman. Windward won despite being without their top prospect, Imani Stafford (6-7, 2012). Don’t be misled: Windward is loaded. The team is led by freshman Jordin Canada (5-7, PG),  one of the top 2014 guards nationally. Windward also has the unsigned senior many college coaches were after in Milica Osmotic, a 6-2 wing forward. Along with those two Paris Baird (2012) and Kristen Simon (2014) round out a team which could have as many as seven D-I signees. Windward relied on its depth of talent, and though the well-coached Carondelet was always on the verge of taking the game, in the end Windward squeaked it out to advance to the Anderson Division semifinals.

Fab Frosh

TOC is always a coming out show for some top tier freshmen. Here are a few that caught our eye.

Jordin Canada (5-7, G)—Windward (Los Angeles, CA) One of the two best guards we’ve seen in the 2014 class, Canada can really pass the ball and has a great feel for the game. She isn’t quite yet there with her shot, but has a good amount of athleticism and tons of upside. She will most likely end up at a school of her choice in three years.

Imani Littleton (6-3, F)—The Bishop’s School (La Jolla, CA) Littleton is a big-time athlete reminiscent of some of the elite posts in the game. She runs the floor well and is a beast on defense. Her offensive game is still developing but look out for her in this freshman class.

Ayanna Edwards (6-2, PF)—Sacramento (CA) Edwards is a big post who’s playing hard as a young player. She has great hands, finishes around the basket, and is a very good rebounder.

Sierra Calhoun (6-0, F)—Christ the King (Middle Village NY) Calhoun is another youngster with great athleticism and good length. Her shot mechanics are still developing.

Off the Grid

Kailee Johnson (6-4, W/F, 2013)—Central Catholic (Portland, OR) - Well, no service had Johnson written up as a top player or has yet recognized she could well be one of the top five players in the class of 2013. Hopefully after big performances against better known 2013 Kendall Cooper (St Anthony’s CA), ranked by some among the top 10 recruits in her class, on Saturday on the way to a 50- point win, people will wake up on a kid who could end up being No. 1 overall in this class. Johnson, a 6-4 wing who’s long and athletic, has both facets of the game in her repertoire. She can score around the basket (great post moves and footwork) as well as make herself a threat from the perimeter. How this player from Portland, Oregon has gone unnoticed for two years of high school basketball makes one wonder what we all are watching?

Jonquel Jones (6-2, F)—2012 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlborough, MD) Jones is a long, athletic forward whom one college coach described as having a little “Natasha Howard” in her, referring to the Florida State freshman standout. Jones struggled in the quarterfinals of the TOC, but this kid, who is nowhere to be found on most of the national services, has a ton of upside at the next level and if people sleep on her, she’ll make someone very happy in 2012.

All I want for Christmas….

Kelsey Plum (5-9, G)—La Jolla Country Day—My two front teeth. Plum, a big-time stud whom some have billed as the next Sue Bird, lost her two front teeth Country Day’s win over Tolleson Monday. Look for Plum to be one of the top 2013s nationally.

Kevin Kiernan (Coach, Mater Dei)—His star back. Kiernan lost senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation, to an ankle sprain just when the competition is beginning to get serious. No one wants to rush an injury, but he could use her back before Mater Dei faces Long Beach Poly in today’s semifinal, not to mention Brea or Bolingbrook, if his team manages to advance to the championship game. All three prospective competitors are ranked in the Top 10 nationally.

Nikki Brey (Coach, Memphis Central)—A change in attitude. Though her team was down by less than 10, Danielle Ballard just showed little to no emotion and didn’t cheer on her teammates after being benched for the last four minutes when she failed to hustle back after a turnover. All Nikki Brey wants for Christmas is Danielle Ballard to play hard.  Is it that so difficult?


Originally published Tue, December 21, 2010

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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.
Rank remains unchanged since last week
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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.