Katie Lou Samuelson, Jessica Shepard Set For Nike TOC Showdown
PHOENIX -- The Nike Tournament of Champions tipped off on Thursday, and some of the nation's biggest stars brought their best games to the desert. The result? Some lopsided wins and some jaw-dropping moments. Here are the highlights from the opening day of the prestigious high school girls' basketball tournament:
Game of the Day
Upstart Millennium (Goodyear, Arizona) pulled off one of the day's upsets, beating perennial powerhouse Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Maryland) 58-49. Junior point guard Raina Perez, senior shooting guard Passionate Amukamara and senior forward Wati Franklin fueled the shocker. With the score 42-42 and 5:22 remaining, Millennium and Perez went on a 5-0 burst and forced a Riverdale Baptist turnover with 4:13 left. Perez extended the lead to 53-44 with 2:03 remaining. Riverdale was unable to mount a charge at the end, and Millennium improved to 11-0. Riverdale Baptist fell to 4-3.
Stars of the Day
Katie Lou Samuelson, the No. 1 prospect in the country and a UConn signee, and her Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) teammates tipped off the 85-team tournament by disposing of Skyline (Dallas) 67-34. Samuelson lived up to her hype and boosted her team to a big win. She poured in 41 points, including 10 3-pointers, going 10-for-17 from behind the arc. Samuelson hit her first four 3-point attempts, making it difficult for Skyline to sink its teeth into the game and make any sort of charge.
Not to be outdone by Samuelson, Jessica Shepard, the No. 3 prospect in the country and a Nebraska recruit, led Fremont (Nebraska) to a 54-47 victory over Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, California). Shepard scored 38 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, setting up a showdown against Samuelson and Mater Dei on Friday.
Aislinn Konig, a 5-foot-9 combo-guard from Brookswood in Canada, has continued to rise up the charts, garnering interest from numerous college programs in the USA. Konig dropped in 23 points, including three third-quarter 3-pointers, to help Brookswood post a 51-44 win over Lynwood (California).
Rising to the Occasion
Even in a loss, sophomore twin sisters Jenn Wirth and LeeAnne Wirth of Seton Catholic (Chandler, Arizona) stood out in the crowd. Both are long and agile and ooze BCS-level ability. They also have two older sisters who know the game well. Christina Wirth played at Vanderbilt (2005-09) and with the WNBA's Indiana Fever (2009), and Theresa Wirth is a senior forward at the University of Denver. Dad Alan is a former major league pitcher with Oakland A's (1978-80).
Day 2 preview
Believe it or not, the action only gets better on Day 2 of the Nike Tournament of Champions. California heavyweights Long Beach Poly, ranked No. 6 in the espnW 25 Power Rankings, and St. Mary's (Stockton), ranked seventh, collide after posting easy opening-day wins. Speaking of collisions, Katie Lou Samuelson of No. 4 Mater Dei and Jessica Shepard of Fremont play each other in a game featuring two of the tournament's most elite prospects. Also, Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), the No. 1 team in the country featuring UConn recruit Crystal Dangerfield and Tennessee recruit Jamesha "MeMe" Jackson, tangles with Desert Vista (Phoenix, Arizona) and shot-blocking phenom Kristine Anigwe, a California signee. Blackman beat Hamilton (Chandler, Arizona) 57-44 in its opener, and Desert Vista topped Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) 68-58.