St. Mary's Secures Showdown With No. 1 Blackman at Nike TOC

Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire

Kat Tudor and No. 7 St. Mary's will take aim at No. 1 Blackman in Saturday's semifinals after knocking off No. 6 Long Beach Poly on Friday.

PHOENIX -- Day 2 at the Nike Tournament of Champions on Friday featured a matchup between two of the top recruits in the nation and a battle between two of the top teams in the nation. Here are some of the highlights from the prestigious girls' basketball tournament:

Game Of The Day

We give the nod to a scrappy battle between two top-10 teams in the espnW 25 Power Rankings: No. 6 Long Beach Poly (California) vs. No. 7 St. Mary's (Stockton, California) in the Joe Smith Division. Both teams extended the floor, trapped and tried to create turnovers. It was St. Mary's that took a nine-point lead into halftime and secured the lead into the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Pittsburgh recruit Tania Lamb brought Long Beach Poly to within seven points, 61-54, with 1:24 to play. But Poly ran out of time and answers and St. Mary's posted a 68-57 win behind 21 points from junior guard Mi'Cole Cayton. St. Mary's now gets a shot at No. 1 Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tennessee) on Saturday in the semifinals.

Honorable mention goes to an intriguing game between Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nevada) and Vanden (Fairfield, California), which held off a late charge and posted a 66-62 win. Vanden jumped out to an 18-point lead that had shrunk to 35-28 at halftime. After a back-and-forth third quarter, Megan Jacobs hit a jumper for Bishop Gorman, cutting the lead to five, 51-46, in the fourth quarter. And with 23 seconds to go, a Raychel Stanley bucket closed the gap to one, 61-60. In the end, it was the guard play of Vanden's Kiana Moore, Julia Blackshell-Fair and Pepperdine recruit Kayla Blair (29 points) that helped the Vikings hold on for the win.

Stars of the Day

Ho-hum. Katie Lou Samuelson, the No. 1 prospect in the nation, had 36 points for Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) and Jessica Shepard, the No. 3 prospect in the nation, had 22 for Fremont (Nebraska) in the Monarchs' 59-44 win over the Tigers. Since Samuelson had 41 and Shepard had 38 on Day 1, we're looking elsewhere.

Alex Johnson, a 6-foot senior forward for top-ranked Blackman, scored 23 points in the Lady Blaze's 58-48 win over Desert Vista (Phoenix). And scoring isn't even her forte. The Middle Tennessee State signee is simply the motor for Blackman, a team that features Tennessee recruit Jamesha "MeMe" Jackson and Connecticut recruit Crystal Dangerfield. Johnson set the tone, making several key buckets in the first quarter to go along with her workhorse mentality. Johnson's offensive game has been improving, even since the July evaluation period, but it's her intangibles that Blackman will need in order to stay atop the polls and keep its hopes for a repeat national title alive.

Kayla Blair, a 5-8 senior shooting guard and a Pepperdine signee, delivered all night long in Vanden's 66-62 win over Bishop Gorman. A strong, physical guard with a scorer's mentality, Blair contributed 29 points and finished plays vs. contact with regularity.

Mi'Cole Cayton, a 5-8 shooting guard for St. Mary's, contributed way more than 21 points in the 68-57 win over Long Beach Poly. The electrifying junior seems to have knack for finding the rim and brings a ton of swagger to the court. With that confidence, Cayton also displayed range at the arc and a consistent dribble-drive attack. She handled pressure, attacked the rim and knocked down her shots.

Rising to the Occasion

Maya Banks, a 6-4 sophomore center for Hamilton (Chandler, Arizona), is about to have a deluge of BCS teams knocking on her door. Banks, whose team fell to Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) 44-37 on Friday, brings a college-ready frame and an emerging offensive skill set that continues to improve. She scored 13 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and was an ever-present shot-blocking presence in the loss. For the winners, it was Jacaira Allen, a 5-11 shooting guard, who stood tall. The versatile junior led Dillard with 12 points, including six free throws, to seal the win.

Day 3 Preview

St. Mary's gets no time to catch its breath. After knocking off Long Beach Poly on Friday, things only get tougher on Saturday. As in No. 1 Blackman tougher. The two national powerhouses will play in the first of the Joe Smith Division semifinals. No. 4 Mater Dei takes on Parkview (Lilburn, Georgia) and Rutgers recruit Victoria Harris in the nightcap.

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