Winter Haven Quells Trey Storm
Kiara Francisco blocks Alexa Smith
Kiara Francisco blocks Alexa Smith
HoopGurlz Publisher
Posted Dec 29, 2006

Winter Haven, Fla., withstands a torrent of first-half threes from Issaquah to take the consolation of the T-Mobile Invitational.


SEATTLE, Wash. - For 16 unexpected, somewhat improbable minutes, the Issaquah Eagles shot the ball, particularly from beyond the three-point line, unlike just about any team LaDawn Gibson had seen before. Impressed, the Winter Haven, Fla., coach remained unconcerned.

Led by Alyssa Shoji, who toasted St. Elizabeth for 20 points the day before, Issaquah splashed down eight three-pointers in 12 tries during the first half and led after each of the first two quarters.

Amber Smith draws a crowd
"It was an unbelievable show," Gibson said after her team's 63-49 victory in the consolation game of the inaugural T-Mobile Invitational. "But I didn't think they'd shoot that way the entire game. Never once did I lose confidence in our ability to win the game."

Winter Haven wing Tiffany Hayes also was hotter than a pistol, having a hand in her team's first 15 points and scoring 18 of her game-high 25 in the first half. So it was shocking to see Issaquah match her, shot for shot.

It was fleeting. Gibson still had a trick up her sleeve. Winter Haven calls it the "Pirahna defense," a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap that eats up the opposition. Unleashing the Pirahnas opened the way to an 11-zip blitz that helped put the game on ice.

Gibson also made a defensive adjustment at halftime, switching Kentucky-bound Amber Smith onto Shoji and the Issaquah guard had just one point in the second half. Adding to Issaquah's woes, sophomore post Alexa Smith drew her fourth foul, taking with her Issaquah's trap-breaking scheme, the Eagle's lone inside threat and the key to its interior defense. Winter Haven took advantage of Smith's absence and successfully attacked the underbelly of the Issaquah defense.

Issaquah coach Kathy Gibson, who was critical of her team for playing scared the day before, said "the fear was gone today." Unfortunately for her and her team, so was the Issaquah defense.

"Basketball oftentimes is a game of runs," she said. "We felt it early on. When the shots don't fall, you have to be able to rely on your defense to make some stops, and we couldn't."

Day Two Photo Gallery

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Glenn Nelson is the publisher of and the editor-in-chief of Scout Media (, an online sports network and magazine-publishing company and subsidiary of Fox Interactive Media. Glenn also founded and coached the Dragons and Northwest HoopGurlz select girl's basketball teams. He previously was a longtime, national-award-winning basketball columnist and writer for The Seattle 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, 2002). He can be reached at

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