PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
CHANDLER, Ariz. - Is it any wonder that on the first day of the Nike Tournament of Champions that the two most dominant performances came from the two most dominant players in the country? Maya Moore, the top-rated player in the 2007 class, and Elena DelleDonne, tops in 2008, both had great scoring outings in wins for their teams here.
Moore helped spark a Collins Hill team that is looking to make it back to the championship game, but came out slow against St. John’s from Washington D.C. Moore finished with 31 points and 18 rebounds and was too much to handle in the paint, scoring on offensive rebounds and slashes to the basket. She kept the team up during the slow start until their shooters Jordan Jones and Nikki Urbizo caught fire and Collins Hill pulled away in the second half.
DelleDonne also led her Ursuline Academy team into the quarterfinals, starting with just two points in the first quarter on two free throws, then exploding for 38 points the rest of the way. She was 14 of 18 from the floor and hit six out of seven three-point attempts for 40 points as Ursuline proved to be too much for Cleveland (Tennesee).
Anzania Stewart of Notre Dame Academy
There were several close calls and a huge upset on Day One. Long Beach Polytechnic, the nation’s top ranked team according to Full Court Press, was taken to overtime by Bishop McNamara, who probably should have won the game with a chance at the end of regulation and the game tied and another down two in overtime. They were unable to convert and, much like last year, started off the TOC losing to the top team from the West Coast. Last year they started with California’s top squad, Troy. Poly started hot and recovered in overtime with two late defensive plays by Jasmine Dixon to seal the deal and advance.
The big upset was Providence Day, ranked No. 3 nationally by Full Court Press, going down to No. 24 Red Mountain. Red Mountain is basically the hometown team and was led by the 24 points of Stanford signee Kayla Pedersen. Red Mountain may just be the Cinderella story here Pedersen's team wasn't even in the illustrious Black Bracket last year. Now it is in the quarterfinals, looking at a match up with Archbishop Mitty which handled Chief Sealth in its opening round match-up.
Christ the King, the two-time defending TOC champions, and last year's national champs, also advanced behind the solid efforts of their two
stars, Lorin Dixon and Sky Lindsay. Dixon scored 15 and dealt out eight assists and Lindsay, who had her jumper going, fnished with 17 in Christ the King's 65-51 win over Redondo Union. Redondo Union was led by the 19 points of Renahy Young.
Lorin Dixon of Christ the King
Another star with a solid performance Monday was Duke signee Krystal Thomas, who went to work inside as her team, The First Academy of Orlando, Fla., beat Marah Strickland and Towson Catholic of Maryland. Thomas took advantage of her size and worked for good position. Once she caught the ball she showed that she can finish with either hand and off a plethora of moves. Most impressive was her quick but controlled pace when working in the lane.
Perhaps the most impressive team on Monday was Notre Dame Academy, which handled a Lynwood (Calif.) team that was missing its top player, Lenita Sanford, who is out with a knee injury. Sanfor'd absence shouldn’t take away from the outstanding play of NDA, however, which is well coached and plays together as a unit. Notre Dame has a great balance of backcourt and frontcourt players who play with a great deal of intensity and it starts with Mia Jackson, who is one of the most physical interior defenders around and she can run the floor. Also roaming the paint was 6-foot-4 shot-blocker Azania Stewart, who also does a great job of seeing the floor, giving help and bumping cutters. On the perimeter NDA was led by senior Ebonie Williams and junior Josette Campbell, both of whom played very good games.
With Providence Day now out of the winner’s bracket, the big matchup on Tuesday will be Collins Hill vs. Notre Dame. Whichever team comes out on top will advance to play the winner of the Archbishop Mitty-Red Mountain game for a chance at the championship game. On the other half of the bracket, Long Beach Polytechnic will take on Ursuline Academy while The First Academy plays the defending champs, Christ the King.
Candice Walker of Towson Catholic receives assistance
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Chris Hansen is the National Director of Scouting for Women's Basketball at HoopGurlz.com and Scout.com. He leads the panel that evaluates and ranks girl's basketball prospects nationally for HoopGurlz and Scout.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 email@example.com.