Nazareth, Mater Dei crowned at Nike TOC
The final day of the Nike Tournament of Champions featured a one-on-one matchup of two of the best point guards in the nation and a head-to-head battle of two of the best teams in the country. Not to mention a whole lot of hardware. Here's a recap of the final day in Phoenix.
Game of the Day
Wondering who made the tournament's biggest statement? Let's start with Nazareth (N.Y.). Behind Bianca Cuevas, the No. 44 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2014 class and a South Carolina signee, Nazareth topped No. 9 Windward (Los Angeles) 63-58 in overtime to win the Blue Division.
The game was billed as a battle between two elite point guards in the 2014 class, Cuevas vs. Jordin Canada, and it lived up to the hype. Both players excelled, with Cuevas dropping 20 points -- including three 3-pointers -- while Canada scored 14.
Nazareth jumped out to an early 17-7 first-quarter lead, but Kristen Simon, a USC signee and the No. 47 prospect in the 2014 class, helped Windward rally for a 27-22 halftime lead. Simon outworked the Nazareth frontline, finishing in the paint while putting Nazareth in front-court foul trouble. Windward stretched its lead to eight with 6:24 left in the third quarter and took a 40-37 lead into the fourth.
But Nazareth fought back to take a 41-40 lead with 6:20 to go. Both teams traded buckets, and a 3-pointer from Windward junior Emily Surloff with 10 seconds to go tied the score at 50-50 to force overtime.
Overtime belonged to Nazareth. Jen Fay, a Quinnipiac signee, nailed a 3-pointer, Cuevas converted off a steal and Belk added another bucket to extend the Nazareth lead to five. The New York powerhouse then ran the clock and Windward ran out of time.
After knocking off three highly regarded California squads in three days, Nazareth is sure to make its season debut in the espnW 25 Power Rankings on Tuesday.
Game of the Day 2
The final in the Joe Smith Division pitted No. 1 and defending champion Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) against No. 6 Long Beach Poly (Calif.) in a battle for state and potential national supremacy.
But for three quarters, Long Beach Poly forgot to show up. And Mater Dei and Katie Lou Samuelson, the No. 2 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class, raced off to an early lead that they never relinquished in a 47-38 win.
Samuelson opened the game with a spinning left-handed basket in the lane. Finishing with 17 points and earning Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, Samuelson hit shots from deep beyond the arc and in traffic.
Mater Dei held a 14-2 first-quarter lead and extended the lead to 31-12 at halftime. Poly struggled to find any rhythm offensively, and Samuelson and company took advantage. As Mater Dei coasted, Poly began to convert on Mater Dei miscues, quietly sneaking back. However, after three quarters, it was still all Monarchs, 41-23.
As the fourth quarter waned, Poly closed the gap to 45-34 with 2:45 remaining. Poly turned up the pressure, but, it was too late to get any closer.
Samuelson has established herself as more than a knockdown 3-point shooting extraordinaire. Her three-game total of 83 points (38, 28, 17) and the dominance and consistency she displayed gives argument that she is the premier prospect in the 2015 class.
Stars of the Day
Sabrina Ionescu, Miramonte (Calif.): The No. 3 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Terrific 25 for the 2016 class brought her smooth floor game to Arizona and gave Miramonte a 73-56 victory over Grandview (Colo.) in the championship game of the Mike Desper Division. The 5-10 guard scored 20 points in the final.
Kristine Anigwe, Desert Vista (Ariz.): The California recruit and the No. 59 prospect in the 2015 class scored a quiet 10 points in Desert Vista's 53-42 win over Dobson (Ariz.) in the final of the White Division. She impacted the game on both ends of the floor, and her defensive presence was noteworthy.
Jen Fay, Nazareth (N.Y.): The Quinnipiac signee was a vital component in her team's championship in the Blue Division. An unassuming 3-point specialist, Fay stretches the defense and gives teammate Bianca Cuevas a versatile ball handler.
Rising to the Occasion
Michaela Onyenwere, Grandview (Colo.): A 5-11 freshman, Onyenwere is an ultra-athletic undersized interior prospect. She's a rebounder deluxe with soft touch in the key and now just needs to define a perimeter game and wait for schools to line up as a next-level small forward. Onyenwere had 19 points and 14 rebounds in a losing effort to Miramonte in the final of the Mike Desper Division.
Joe Smith Division
Justine Hall, senior, Regis Jesuit (Colo.), Purdue signee
Charise Holloway, senior, St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.), Arizona signee
Ayanna Clark, freshman, Long Beach Poly (Calif.)
Mikayla Cowling, senior, St. Mary's (Berkeley, Calif.), California signee
Jayde Woods, sophomore, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Most Outstanding Player: Katie Lou Samuelson, junior, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Tynice Martin, junior, Southwest Dekalb (Ga.)
McKynzie Fort, senior, Etiwanda (Calif.), Oregon signee
Jordin Canada, senior, Windward (Los Angeles), UCLA signee
Natalie Romeo, senior, Carondelet (Calif.) Nebraska signee
Yazmine Belk, senior, Nazareth (N.Y.), Virginia Commonwealth signee
Most Outstanding Player: Bianca Cuevas, senior, Nazareth (N.Y.), South Carolina signee
Mater Dei's victory over Long Beach Poly makes the Monarchs a secure No. 1 in the espnW 25 Power Rankings. For now. Help is on the way for Poly. Transfers Emoni Jackson, a Michigan signee, and Lajahna drummer, a UCLA signee, will become eligible next month. The Jackrabbits will welcome another shot at Mater Dei when March rolls around.