STORY & PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
SEATTLE, Wash. - This time, matters were as dire as they'd ever been. After six games in seven days against some of the nation's elite, including a victorious title
game in the Nike Tournament of Champions. After a flight back home from Phoenix and a harried Christmas. After a 10-hour, cross-country trip here that included a
two-hour delay in San Francisco. After meeting a T-Mobile public-relations representative at 5:50 a.m. to tape a segment for ESPN2's "Cold Pizza."
After all of that, the great Maya Moore and Collins Hill High School, both ranked No. 1 in the nation, looked beaten. They trailed an excellent Winter Haven, Fla., team
by as many as nine points in the second half. They had no legs, no zip. And, to the uninitiated, no hope.
But to those living through the Legend of Maya, the only thing that really was different from all the other times was degree of difficulty.
"As great a player as she is, she always seems to find a way to surprise and amaze me," Collins Hill coach Tracey Tipton said. "I knew she'd find a way."
Literally sleepless in Seattle, Moore awakened, finding her legs and her legendary heart, at the end - when it counted most. In the throes of a 12-of-32, five-turnover
performance, the Connecticut-bound superstar blocked a shot by Winter Haven's Tiffany Hayes and transported the ball downcourt for a four-foot floater, fed Jordan Jones for a baseline jumper, overplayed a Hayes wing pass to snatch it and deliver the game-winning shot with 11 seconds left, then preserved the win by blocking
And did it all during the final 67 seconds of the game.
"She's pretty darned good," Smith said in what may be the understatement of the year in girl's high-school basketball.
Smith, a Kentucky signee, was pretty darned good herself, delivering 12 points, six assists and numerous hustle plays. Hayes, who had 14 points, six boards, three
assists and three steals, also was pretty good. Together, they and an energy draining halfcourt press put Collins Hill on the ropes early and it remained there until Moore's
fast-break layup with 6:07 left in the fourth quarter gave Collins Hill its first lead of the game.
Uncharacteristically, Collins Hill committed 22 turnovers, allowed Winter Haven to slice up its defense with penetrations from Hayes and Smith, and, except for Taylor Dalrymple (16 points on 6-of-7 shooting), couldn't get much going offensively. The Eagles managed to stay within striking distance behind Moore's 15 rebounds ("She
killed us on the boards," Winter Haven coach LaDawn Gibson said) and their own full- and halfcourt traps, which began to take effect late in the third quarter.
A nationally seasoned bunch, Collins Hill knew it had to stick around and allow to happen what almost always happens.
"We're used to the pressure," Moore said. "The best of us came out at the end."
Afterward, Gibson would claim no secret formula for Collins Hill.
"All I knew," she said, "is that they had Maya Moore."
What she didn't know - and Winter Haven and a national cable audience would learn - is what that actually meant.
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Glenn Nelson is the publisher of HoopGurlz.com and the editor-in-chief of Scout Media (www.Scout.com), an online sports network and magazine-publishing company and subsidiary of Fox Interactive Media. Glenn also founded and
the Dragons and Northwest HoopGurlz select girl's basketball teams. He previously was a longtime, national-award-winning basketball columnist and writer for The
Times. His work also has appeared in several national magazines and books. He is co-author of "Rising Stars: The Ten Best Players in the NBA" (Rosen Publishing,
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.