CHANDLER, Ariz., Dec. 22 - Though Long Beach Poly tried to argue the point - rather successfully for 34 of the final 36 minutes of the Nike Tournament of Champions white division semifinals - the fact is, size really does matter in basketball.
To wit, the promoter's dream match of a championship game will pit Twins - Piedmont's 6-foot-4 Courtney and 6-3 Ashley Paris - against Twin Towers - Christ the King's 6-4 Tina Charles and 6-2 Carrem Gay.
That special encounter was booked on a Courtney Paris jump hook with 1:48 to play in a 44-42 Piedmont (Calif.) High School victory over smaller but game Long Beach Poly. Paris' connection, for her game-high 18th and 19th points, ended a sequence during which both she and her sister, Ashley, missed the back end of one-and-one free throws, only to have Piedmont retrieve the misses and convert them into points. Long Beach Poly led by two before the series of rebounding misfortune.
Until then, Long Beach Poly had successfully used its lightning to quell Piedmont's thunder. The Paris twins faced a thicket of arms every time they touched the ball on the blocks and, rather than avoid the question of how to deal with the taller twosome on the other end, Poly begged it, time and time again, slashing right at them, then using their quickness to track down offensive boards. All the while, Poly Coach Carl Buggs shuffled his players in and out like hockey lines to keep their legs fresh.
Long Beach, whose tallest starter (April Phillips) was 6 feet, used the penetrations and pullups to great effect, busting off a five-point lead just before halftime. Poly ruled much of the second half and led by four points after Ashley Shorts downed a breakaway layup with 3:32 to play. But Piedmont, ranked by Fullcourt Press as the No. 1 high school girls team in the country, got jumpers, ironically, from their smalls, Anna Chang and Chanzy Morris, to set up the furious finish.
Oakland Tech had visions of using a similar script to topple Sue Bird's old school, Christ the King, ranked as high as No. 3 nationally by USA Today, but those dreams vanished amid a 24-2 run by the Middle Village, N.Y., school that spanned the middle of the first period to late in the second. The initial part of that run occurred with Cal-bound post Devanei Hampton on the Oakland Tech bench. Her return did little to squelch the trend as Oakland struggled mightily for offense against the long-armed defense of Charles and Gay.
Alexis Gray-Lawson challenges
Tina Charles and Carrem Gay
Furthermore, though Christ the King suffered through foul trouble for Gay, who eventually was disqualified with 3:56 left, Oakland Tech could only scratch back to as close as 10 points before succumbing 50-38. Gay entered the tournament among the week's poster girls for elite prospects, but it's been her younger teammate, Charles, a junior, who has used the stage to leapfrog into national prominence. A day after scoring 18 points to silence Troy (Fullerton, Calif.) in the quarters, Charles used her nifty post game to pin another 20 on Oakland Tech.
Charles had good company on day that saw most of the tournament's biggest stars shine especially bright. Ashlee Trebilcok, who is headed to UCLA next year, propelled Hart (Newhall, Calif.) into the consolation finals with a 35-point outburst against St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.) and their luminary guard, Jacki Gemelos, who was overshadowed on her own team by Renne Roberts' three-point-propelled 34 points. Hart will face Carondelet, whose 6-4 junior post, Jayne Appel, scored 18 to help offset a 29-point performance by Narbonne's Morghan Medlock. In another consolation shootout, the 19 points of St. John's (Washington, D.C.) Marissa Coleman, who is Maryland-bound, helped St. John's (Washington, D.C.) outgun Thunder Ridge (Highlands, Colo.) and star guard Abby Waner, a Duke signee who had 21 points.
More TOC Coverage:
Christ the King Takes It: The smallest player on the court made the biggest impact in what otherwise was a clash of titans.
Last Impressions: Photos from the final day of competition.
Third Impressions: Photos from the third day of competition.
Second Impressions: Photos from the second day of competition.
OH! Canada!: Our second day at the Nike Tournament of Champions finds Canadian-style basketball, a super-duper sophomore and the daughter of an NBA great.
First Impressions: Photos from the first day of competition.
First Take: Jacki Gemelos of Stockton, Calif., revealed herself as a serious national player of the year candidate.