Chandler, AZ -- One might think this event is some small local event as the same high school has won for the third year in a row with the same individual receiving most valuable player (MVP) honors. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Now completing its fourteenth season of being held in Chandler, Arizona, the Nike Tournament of Champions once again brought elite high school girls' basketball talent to the Arizona desert. With a field of 84 teams, placed in divisions according to strength of teams as best the organizing committee could determine, there was plenty of talent for the dozens of college recruiting coordinators to digest. The top (Joe Smith) division (16 teams) was again won by Mater Dei High School of Santa Ana, California.
Picking up the action in the semi-finals of the Smith Division...
Blackman High School (Murfreesboro, Tennessee) 79-68 St. Mary's High School (Stockton, California)
This contest pitted the consensus best point guard in the 2016 class (Crystal Dangerfield of Blackman) against one of the most intense pressing teams in American high school basketball in the form of the Rams of St. Mary's. In this contest, the pressing team won the first quarter and the stellar point guard the rest of the game. The first quarter ended 20-17 favoring the West Coast team which was able to convert Blackman errors into points,
In the second quarter, Blackman continued to turn the ball over a few more times but those errors did not result in as many points off turnovers. Meanwhile, the Tennessee team was scoring via layups as Dangerfield broke the pressure. Blackman's Alex Johnson had a half leading 20 points, mostly on layups with Blackman up 44-36 at the break.
The big question in half two was would Dangerfield pick up early third quarter fouls and be forced to the bench? When she briefly had left the game in quarter two, the St. Mary's press started to become a problem. As it turned out, Dangerfield did not pick up another foul in the game and continued to orchestrate her team's advantage, 63-52 after three quarters.
Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, the margin never fell below seven. Johnson finished scoring her jersey number (34) while teammate Jazz Bond (6-4 junior) had 16. However, the star of the night was Dangerfield with 14 points and 10 assists. Senior guard Carlissa Shipp (5-8) led St. Mary's with 12 points (all threes).
Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, California) 60-53 Parkview High School (Lilburn, Georgia)
Unlike the first semi-final, this contest was not expected to be as competitive with expectations of domination by Mater Dei's high powered offense led by Kate Lou Samuelson, considered to be a top two recruit nationally in her 2015 class by most scouting services. Somebody forgot to tell Parkview, which remained competitive throughout the game on the basis of its press, turning over the more skilled but less athletic Mater Dei perimeter.
Mater Dei led after each quarter 15-12, 30-29 and 44-35 after the third. Throughout the game, but particularly in the first half, Parkview would appear deliberate in its half court offense only to suddenly go off track and take a bad shot. In the second half, the Californians really frustrated the Georgians with a packed in zone. Parkview's best offense in the quarter court was often a stick-back off a missed shot.
While never threatening the lead in the fourth quarter, Parkview never went away thanks to its defense and a modest (for her) team leading 21 points by Samuelson who can easily score in the thirties. Vickie Harris led Parkview with 22 points. Special kudos to Parkview's Raven Johnson (5-11 junior forward) who finished with 19 points after spending much of the prior day at the hospital with health issues.
The game saw some remarkable foul shooting (often a lost art in prep ball) with Parkview's star duo hitting on 13 of 14 while Mater Dei's top three Samuelson, Andee Velasco and Alli Rosenblum (6-3 junior center) combined for 23 for 27 from the charity stripe.
On to the championship...
Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, California) 53-44 Blackman High School (Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
This game was essentially decided in the first quarter (won by Mater Dei 13-5) in that Blackman spent the entire evening trying unsuccessfully to break down the Mater Dei alternating zone and sagging man to man defenses. Post-game Mater Dei Coach Kevin Kiernan said the goal was to keep the score in the fifties and the pace relatively slow. Sadly, from Blackman's viewpoint little changed (32-20 at half and 38-29 after three quarters).
On the few occasions where Blackman got a shot at the rim about half of those were missed. From the outset, the game was a perimeter shooting contest and that played into the wheelhouse of MVP Kate Lou Samuelson who finished with a game leading 36 points including six three's. Crystal Dangerfield led Blackman with 14 points, all too many of them on perimeter shots while her specialty is getting into the paint, getting to the rim or dishing off.
Nike TOC Joe Smith Division All-Tournament Team (in alphabetical order with height, position, graduation year and school)
Daisa Alexander, 5-7, guard, 2016, Southwest DeKalb High School (Decatur, Georgia)
Some people run for the exits when losing badly. Others just compete harder. Alexander is squarely in the second category. While her team was getting trounced 87-56 by St. Mary's of Stockton, she still went for 27 points competing to the bitter end.
She can attack the basket going mostly (but sometimes left) right, has a fine pull-up jumper and can on occasion spot up for threes. She showed good court vision when doubled. If she hadn't been getting BCS looks, that should change shortly.
Kristine Anigwe, 6-4, center, 2015, Desert Vista High School (Phoenix, Arizona)
Anigwe, a CAL signee, is like a freight train coming at the opposition when driving from the high post. She is also very capable at posting up the opposition. At this event, she regularly tallied double digit points. Thanks to superior athletics combined with a good motor, Anigwe is just scratching the surface of her potential.
Mi'Cole Cayton, 5-9, guard, 2016, St. Mary's High School (Stockton, California)
Cayton is a player who can play either guard slot. Like the rest of her teammates, she plays hard. She can shoot the three or attack the basket. At this event she was St. Mary's (finished third in section) most consistent performer.
Destiny Frazier, 5-4, guard, 2016, Dillard High School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
One word can describe this little combo guard "relentless." In several games, this lefty tallied over 20 points to lead Dillard to a 3-1 result winning the consolation bracket after losing in round one. One unusual thing she did a few times was finish right-handed on the left side (not fundamentally correct and extremely unusual for a left-handed player).
Crystal Dangerfield, 5-6, point guard, 2016, Blackman High School (Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
Dangerfield was recently discussed in our Tennessee Turkey Jamm write-up. Orally committed to Connecticut, she is one of the best high school players at breaking full and half court pressure and finding open teammates as was the case in Blackman's semifinal victory. In the final with the pace much slower, she, along with her teammates, settled for too many unsuccessful perimeter shots.
Vickie Harris, 6-2, center, 2015, Parkview High School (Lilburn, Georgia)
Harris, committed to Rutgers, gave Parkview a strong presence in the key during the event. She regularly tallied double figures in doing so. She plays hard and takes a lot of hits in the key. One must credit her from coming back so strongly from a serious knee injury of a few years ago.
Alex Johnson, 6-0, center/forward, 2015, Blackman High School (Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
Johnson is another player recently discussed in our Tennessee Turkey Jamm report. Her highlight at the Nike TOC was scoring her number (34) in the semifinal victory. A Middle Tennessee signee, she has improved her range in the last year but remains most deadly right around the basket.
Tania Lamb, 5-6, guard, 2015, Long Beach (California) Poly High School
Lamb, a Pitt signee, looks to score and can do so via the drive and going over the top with the perimeter shot (including the three ball). She led Poly in overall scoring for the event highlighted by the on-the-buzzer winning shot (55-54 over Fremont High School) to tally 24 points and give her team a fifth place (3-1) result.
Katie Lou Samuelson, 6-3, forward, 2015, Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, California) MVP
Samuelson, a Connecticut signee, was MVP last year and co-MVP in 2013 with sister Karlie (now at Stanford). Her best outing at the event was 41 points. Although post size, her specialty is the long three-ball. However, unlike most bombers, she also has a strong driving move to the basket.Samuelson has a good sense as to what is a good shot for her (feet set).
Considered one of the top two recruits in the 2015 class in the country, she still could get better with her mid-range game but there is already plenty in her game to be a nightmare to deal with at the next level
Jessica Shepard, 6-4, center/forward, 2015, Fremont (Nebraska) High School
Shepard, a Nebraska signee, literally carried her team to a fine 2-2, sixth place showing. She had several 30+ point games scoring via posting down low or dribbling in often spinning along the way (unusual and remarkable at her size). Back home in Nebraska, she was already had a few games where she outscored the opposing team by herself.
Considered a consensus top five recruit in the 2015 class, she still could become more consistent with her face-up mid-key to foul line area shots. Along with Samuelson, Shepard was one of the two best performers at the event and should help to make the Cornhuskers a nationally ranked team in the years ahead.
Andee Velasco, 5-8, point guard, 2015, Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, California)
Velasco, a Loyola Marymount signee, did her job of getting her team into the proper offense throughout the event. She showed lots of poise under pressure, not panicking if trapped or getting flustered if she turned the ball over. Her shots generally came in the flow of the offense. An individual highlight for her might be scoring a three from beyond half court as time expired in the first half of the championship game.