Simmons leads charge for West

COLUMBUS, Ohio. -- Anytime you can get 24 of the nation's top players on the floor you can bet something is going to happen. It doesn't necessarily guarantee that it will be something good. The ninth McDonald's All-American girls' basketball game Wednesday night was the equivalent of a lot of good ingredients looking good on their own and coming together to create a bad recipe.

In a game that featured 59 turnovers between the two teams, the West squad led by co-MVP Meighan Simmons held off a late charge by their counterparts to claim an 84-75 victory. Natasha Howard of the East team, named co-MVP with Simmons, helped ignite a second half charge that closed a 22-point lead to seven at one point.

Contrary to the boys' game where seven players remain undecided on their college choices, every participant in this year's girl's event has already signed her national letter of intent and her future coaches and schools are anxiously awaiting her arrival on campus this summer. Despite the sloppy team play several individuals demonstrated why they earned the recognition of McDonald's All-American.

Meighan Simmons: Ranked No. 24 by ESPN HoopGurlz, this 5-foot-9 future Tennessee point guard used a versatile and constantly attacking game to lead her team with 20. What might be most impressive about her performance is that she only played 14 minutes. During that time she connected on seven of 15 shots and was a perfect six for six from the line. She was able to penetrate again and again and showed an effectiveness in traffic that was surprising considering her slight build. Her perimeter shot keeps defenders honest and she has the range to force them to pick her up early. The Cibolo, Texas, native may have been only one for five from 3-point range in the game, but she was one of the finalists in the long ball competition in Monday night's Jam Fest.

Natasha Howard: Wednesday night's performance raises the question of just how good the future Florida State Seminole might have been had she seen more time on the big stage. Every opportunity over the past year that has pitted this 6-4 forward against top tier competition has seen her not only rise to the challenge but surpass expectations time and again. She is ranked second in the 2010 class by ESPN HoopGurlz 100, and her play isn't just effective, it's dramatic. Each touch has observers watching closely not just at what she does, but how she does it. With lots of support in the stands, the Toledo, Ohio, product shot seven for 12 from the floor including three of seven from 3-point range. Just for good measure she added nine rebounds and five assists. Her combination of size, skills, athleticism and agility may well make her one of the most multi-faceted players to come along in a long while.

Richa Jackson: Oklahoma's Midwest City High School's loss will certainly be Duke's gain come next season. This 6-foot wing may combine explosiveness and a smooth approach better than anybody in the 2010 class. Ranked sixth by ESPN HoopGurlz, her play is very measured yet still physical and attacking. She has size and power making her a nightmare match up for smaller defenders and but also enjoys a first step that leaves bigger opponents chasing play after play. Her ability to finish inside combines with a good stroke both on the pull up and from the perimeter. For the evening she ended up with 12 points on five of 11 shooting while pulling in six rebounds. Adding two blocks and a steal highlights the possibilities she has at the defensive end of the floor as well.

Karla Gilbert: Gary Blair and the folks down at Texas A&M might still be playing this weekend had they been able to play this hometown 6-5 post alongside their standout Danielle Adams. If her performance Wednesday night is any indication, the No. 9 prospect is more than ready to move on to the college game. Possessing size and strength as well as a willingness to use them, she's a force in the paint. She's active at the offensive end and works efficiently in posting to the ball or the next pass. On the catch she's quick to attack and uses defensive contact to help read and make decisions. Finishing five for six from the floor, including a 3-pointer, and going a perfect four of four from the line she finished the game with 15 points. What really may have the defensive-minded Aggies happy might be the five steals she had in just 18 minutes of play.

Kaneisha Horn: A native of Birmingham, Ala., Horn has chosen to stay in state and roll with the Tide at Alabama. That's a good thing because when this 6-1 power player rolls, opponents pay. Listed as a forward but more suited to the wing collegiately she may be one of the toughest one-on-one matchups coming out of high school in this class. Combing height, strength, an explosive first step and sound ballhandling skills, she gets to the rim against almost any defender. She's unusually adept at using her body on the drive to protect both the dribble and the shot. While her game stats weren't up to par with her high school numbers, her play was refreshing to see. With a whole season under her belt since an ACL detour, she's not only back on her game but advancing the level that already placed her number five in the HoopGurlz 100.

Stefanie Dolson: As if Connecticut fans need any more good news these days, they should be feeling pretty upbeat about the progress and effectiveness of this 6-5 post from Port Jervis, N.Y. Looking solid and fit, the No. 39 prospect was active in looking for the ball down low and aggressive after the catch. Her ability to move through the paint and receive the ball in traffic puts her in a position to take advantage of her ability to finish without being forced away from the rim. She demonstrated good instincts in reading defenders as well as a knack for getting them out of their stance. Even better is her ability to step out and shoot the ball once she's established her low post game. Defensively, she'll still need to be more active before the catch without getting sealed. She seems more than willing to play physical and that's half the game. Her six-of-12 shooting, 12 points and eight rebounds were a productive 18 minutes on the night.

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Mark Lewis is the national recruiting coordinator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He can be reached at mark@hoopgurlz.com.