PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
Day Two of the Nike Tournament of Champions started with a bang with a 43-point effort from Jacki Gemelos and was followed up by a 40-point effort from Tina Charles.
Nobody really gave Ursuline Academy a chance against Tina Charles, Lorin Dixon, Sky Lindsay and the rest of the Royals of Christ the King. Yet for a half it was neck and neck before an 18-9 third quarter extended the CTK lead beyond what Elena DelleDonne, the super-sophomore forward, could come back from. DelleDonne scored 31 points during the loss and she earned every point having the cat-quick Lorin Dixon all over her whenever she tried dribble penetration and Tina Charles coming over to help when she got the ball inside.
Despite Christ the King’s depth, which wore out Ursuline Academy, it is the youth and toughness of the young Raiders team that is most notable. They may have DelleDonne, the Scout.com Super Six selection, but the rest of the team often is overlooked because of their size and direct comparison’s to one of the nation’s best players.
Sophomores Shannon O’Hanlon and Kayla Miller both put together solid efforts. Miller, a 5-foot-8 guard, plays with poise not usually found in sophomores playing on this stage. Because of the defensive scheme of Christ the King, she had the benefit of not having Dixon on her all game, but nevertheless played hard and did well going to the basket against the imposing CTK defense. Miller averages 12 points, four assists and four steals and as a freshman earned second team All-Blue Hen Conference.
O’Hanlon, a 5-10 forward plays bigger than her size for the Raiders. She plays hard the entire game and scores efficiently without needing a lot of touches. She earned All-Catholic Conference second team honors as a freshman and epitomizes team play.
Lorin Dixon, 5-4, tries to hold out
Elena DelleDonne, 6-3
That’s the exciting part of watching this young Ursuline Academy team; it has star power in DelleDonne but also has players who fill roles, play hard, rebound and are willing to pass the ball off. The team will graduate only one senior, so look for this team to improve not only this year but for the next few years. The one evident skill they lack - post-entry passing - stood out against Christ the King. Either the passes were lacking touch on lob entry passes or the passing angles weren’t right most of the game, limiting the number of post scoring opportunities they could get from DelleDonne against the diminutive Lorin Dixon, who was giving up a foot in height and at least 100 pounds in weight. When the perimeter players start putting that together, they will be successful on the national stage without a doubt.
While we’re on the topic of successful at the national level one must first think of the nation’s No. 1 team according to Full Court Press, Southridge from Beaverton, Ore. The Skyhawks have a host of D-1 talent and played perennial southern California power Narbonne in the quarterfinals. It was in that game that the leader of Southridge, 5-foot-10 inch point guard, JJ Hones, learned a thing or two.
Remembering that they stomped through everyone the Northwest had to offer last year in going 29-0, it is no wonder they came to the TOC to defend their record, earn their stripes and meet new challenges. And challenged is exactly what Hones, who signed to play at Stanford next year, got from the Narbonne defense.
Hones is a big point guard and she needed every pound and every bit of strength against the extreme ball pressure Narbonne employed against her. She had a defender in her hip pocket the entire night. Hones has great balance and see the floor as well as anyone but these attributes were stretched the limits because the constant ball pressure sped her game up too much. She did a great job of lowering her body and getting into the defender’s hips to break pressure, but Brittany Groves, Danielle Lenoir and the other Gauchos defenders used their speed and quickness to keep on her. This resulted in Hones continuing to accelerate up the floor, but never shaking free of the defender. During the second and third quarters she forgot one of the two key principals in breaking ball pressure - change your direction and change your speed (or tempo).
“It was difficult; their defensive pressure was more than I was used to,” Hones said. She used the change of direction, but in the middle of the game tried to run by the Narbonne defenders instead of doing what she normally excels at -- changing her speed to relieve pressure. Late in the third period, after a turnover and timeout it clicked for her. She got going full steam ahead and then stopped on a dime and sent her defender a good six feet out in front of her. From that moment on she regained control of herself, and thus her team to lead them to semifinals of the ridiculously tough Black Division at the TOC.
JJ Hones stops with balance
“I hate use a cliché,” Hones said, “but it was a learning experience. It was great defense and I really appreciated the challenge.”
And that’s why the best want to play at the TOC, to be challenged and to improve. The pressure Hones felt throughout the game tonight will undoubtedly match the pressure she will see every night in her career at Stanford. She’s a smart player and more than her 18 points it was her learning something about herself and how to deal with adversity that says the most about why she is one of the better point guards in the country.
In other action three other stars had great individual performances. Jacki Gemelos scored 43 points in their first win of the tournament. Her scoring by quarter was indicative of the entire game for St. Mary’s: 9-7-19-9 for a total of 43 of her team’s 76 points.
A great head-to-head matchup was Monica Wright of Forest Park shooting it out with Michelle Harrison of Mountain View. Harrison won the head-to-head, 33-30 but Monica Wright, who has signed to play at Virginia next year, did her thing, scoring 25 in the first half to push her team out to a four-point lead. The second half, Harrison took advantage of her length and size and made Wright defend her on the block. The crew from Mountain View made a valiant comeback, but a big defensive stop by Wright and key buckets from Danni Jackson down the stretch were enough to overcome the big day from Stanford-bound Harrison. Jackson, a freshman, has looked good in both of their first games and is a youngster to keep an eye on.
MORE TOC COVERAGE:
TOC Photo Gallery
A Foul Finish
Preview: A No. 1 Shootoff
Day Three: Iron Unkind in Semis
Southridge, Prairie Advance
Day Two: Stars Come Out
Day One: Southridge on Task
Day One Players Report
Chris Hansen, National Director of Scouting for Women's Basketball at Scout.com, also is the Prep Analyst for HoopGurlz.com. Chris leads the panel that evaluates and ranks girls' basketball prospects nationally for Scout.com and Full Court Press (www.FullCourt.com). Chris has been involved in the women’s basketball community since 1998 as a coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.