PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
CHANDLER, Ariz. - Legendary college coach Al McGuire always made the case that the first
four minutes of the second half were the most important minutes of the
game - and Collins Hill provided the evidence Thursday afternoon at
Hamilton High. The Eagles broke open a one-point
game with an 18-2 run in the first 4:28 of the third period and, after
surviving a belated Long Beach Poly rally, beat the Jackrabbits 75-61
in the championship of the top bracket at the Nike Tournament of Champions.
Collins Hill came into the tournament No. 2 in the Full Court
Press rankings and No. 1 in USA Today, with Long Beach Poly
reversing positions, so it was fitting that the two faced off in the
title game of the tournament that, more than any other event, is
likely to determine the national champion. And though Maya Moore was
once again spectacular (31 points, great defense and big play after
big play), the Eagles also got key contributions from Taylor Dalrymple
(13 points) and Shakeda Richie (nine points).
In fact, it was Richie who scored the first two baskets of the third
quarter to lengthen a 32-31 lead 36-31, but it was a trio of treys
that effectively knocked Poly out of the national championship race. A
pair of Moore jumpers sandwiched around Jasmine Dixon's drive had put
the score at 40-33, still well within reach for the pressing, running
Jackrabbits, but then Dalrymple, Nikki Urbizo and Moore nailed three
straight three-pointers, and Poly never recovered.
Maya Moore of Collins Hill
A 7-2 run to start the fourth quarter pushed the margin to 27, and
even though Poly showed heart with a 20-2 outburst of its own, it was
not nearly enough.
Early in the second quarter, though, it didn't look as though Collins
Hill, which lost just once last year, in the finals of this
tournament, would need a second-half explosion to win. The Eagles
jumped out to an 11-3 lead, and after the Jackrabbits came back to go
ahead 12-11, a Jordan Jones three keyed a 13-2 run that put Collins
Hill up 10. But foreshadowing the fourth quarter, Poly caught fire
late to make it a one-point game going into the locker room.
Presumably, that set the stage for a riveting second half, but instead
the third quarter turned into the Maya Moore highlight show. She
scored 13 points of the Eagles' 29 points in the quarter, and then had
five points in the first minue of the final period to seal the deal -
despite Poly's late uprising.
Now what's left for Collins Hill is to take care of business in
Seattle at the T-Mobile Invitational and then against top Georgia
teams like South Gwinnett and Stephenson en route to what the Eagles
hope is another state title and a first national championship. Of
course, as long as Moore is healthy and out of foul trouble, it's
going to be very hard for any high school team to beat her. The
long-time observers of the girl's basketball scene who dot the stands
at the Nike TOC agree that she is the most dominant high school player
of this or any other era. Though Chamique Holdsclaw and Diana Taurasi
were both tremendous at the prep level, neither played defense like
Moore, and neither could win games in so many ways. At this
tournament, Moore looked like a WNBA player going against high school
girls, and as Mike Teasley of Notre Dame Academy said afterward, "She
could do whatever she wanted."
What she really wanted to do was win, and with her, and the
four-minute explosion to start the second half, that's exactly what
Collins Hill did.
Christ the King's aura of invincibility, which had been punctured
Wednesday night, evaporated Thursday morning when Archbishop Mitty of
San Jose dominated the Royals in the first half en route to a 50-37
victory. The back-to-back double-digit losses were the first for the
Royals since the dawn of time, and could herald a sea change in New
York City basketball. CtK's complete lack of halfcourt offense caught
up to the Royals, as only Sky Lindsay seemed interested in shooting
outside the paint, and Lorin Dixon's forays to the basket were greeted
with a host of white shirts.
In the end, Christ the King was exposed as not quite up to the elite
level, though still a very good team that no one could look forward to
playing. Mitty, however, unheralded except by FCP, showed that it
clearly belonged on the national stage. The Monarchs finished 3-1, losing only to Collins Hill, and Danielle Robinson proved to be Dixon's match in speed, and exhibited almost as
much quickness -and outscored her 23-12. And most important, her
Despite Long Beach Poly's loss, it was a good day all around for
California, as Brea-Olinda, Bishop Montgomery, Huntington Beach and
Ventura won their brackets, meaning only Collins Hill was able to
break the Left Coast pattern. But then again, only Collins Hill had
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Clay Kallam is the publisher of Full Court Press (www.Fullcourt.com), an online magazine devoted to women’s basketball. The author of the book “Girls Basketball: Building a Winning Program (Wish Publishing, 2002), Kallam has written about the women’s game for several national publications and is a voter for the McDonald’s All-American team, the Parade All-American team, the All-WNBA team and the Wooden Award. He is the coach of The Bentley School girls’ varsity basketball team and formerly wrote for the Contra Costa Times newspaper chain.