CHANDLER, Ariz. -- The hurt can wait.
Injuries have pestered the elite Joe Smith Division at the Nike Tournament of Champions, but if it were up to the players, no court time would be lost.
Alexis Riley-Perry of Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.) agonized with what turned out to be a shoulder separation in Saturday's opening round. She was in such pain that they took her to the hospital for X-rays, which proved negative. She was back Monday to help the Ladycats with 15 points during their 65-55 quarterfinal victory over St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.).
Riley-Perry was smiling broadly afterward, showing none of Saturday's pain.
"It hurt, but I'm used to it,'' she said. "I know how to get past the psychological part, just brace it up and get out there.''
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the top-ranked senior in the country, from Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), hopes she fares as well, but has only overnight to come back from rolling her right ankle in the third quarter of Monday's quarterfinal. She was reduced to an ice wrap and a cheerleader role as the tournament's defending champs dealt with Monarch (Louisville, Colo.), 64-46.
Even one of the officials came over to say he was sorry to see her on the sideline.
"It can be a two-day or a two-week thing,'' Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan said. "We'll see how it does overnight. We'll err on the side of caution.''
Mosqueda-Lewis, who is headed from the nation's top high-school program to the top college team next year with Connecticut, didn't think her injury would trouble her future coach, Geno Auriemma.
"He's got bigger things to worry about,'' she said of Tuesday's big game with No. 15 Florida State that could give UConn college basketball's longest win streak in history -- men or women. The Huskies are tied at 88 games with UCLA's men from 1971-74.
In January, Mater Dei will attend UConn's game against Louisville en masse – on the way home from another prep tournament, the Hall of Fame Game in Springfield, Mass. The Monarchs -- who suit up 17 players a game -- drove in a four-van caravan to Arizona. "We have a low budget, just like everyone else,'' Kiernan insisted.
Mater Dei used 11 players to defeat Monarch, which Kiernan said was the positive way to look at his star player's injury.
"They all stepped up,'' he said. "They extended the lead from 10 to 20 points without her. That's big. Just the threat of having her on the court opens up a lot for us.''
Kiernan lauded the play of junior point guard Jordan Adams, calling her a "triple double kind of player" in her 12-point effort marked by strong defensive play and court savvy. Losing coach Gail Hook said she was impressed with Mater Dei's depth of talent, and especially with USC signee Alexyz Vaioletama, who had a game-high 15 points.
"That team could beat some college teams,'' Hook said. She did not take the bait to name any.
Hook tried a 3-2 zone against Mater Dei in the second half, which seemed to slow the landslide for a time.
"A 20-point win here is a 40-point win back home,'' Kiernan shrugged, claiming the lack of a shot clock here and the high quality of the competition will keep scoring low.
While Mater Dei is ranked No. 1 in the Powerade Fab 50, the Monarchs aren't alone here at the top. No. 2 Brea Olinda and No. 3 Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, Ill.) both notched quarterfinal wins Monday.
Bolingbrook coach Tony Smith decided to try something new to keep his team focused and out of trouble, injury or otherwise. At halftime, when Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) went into the locker room, he held his players on the court, talking to them first, then having them run drills. He says they're too slow to get started after the break, so no break.
It seemed to work. Bolingbrook stretched out what started as a close game to win, 67-44.
Tuesday's semifinal matchup is between Mater Dei and ninth-ranked Long Beach Poly, a 61-49 quarterfinal winner over Memphis Central (Memphis, Tenn.). The two California schools are only about 25 miles from each other, and have met already this season in an exhibition game.
"It don't mean nothing,'' said Poly's coach Carl Buggs of the earlier matchup.
Maybe not to him. The players remember it well. Point guard Ariya Crook-Williams, who on Monday had four assists, three steals and three 3-pointers (the team scored a school-record nine threes in the game) didn't get the memo from the coach that it was no big thing.
"We were down 20-22 points at half,'' she quickly recalled. "We came back in the second half, played our game, and beat them by 15 points. The suckiest thing about it is that it didn't count.''
Not the case Tuesday, however, as the pressure increases on all the semifinalists. It showed on the usually loquacious Jeff Sink, long-time coach with Brea Olinda.
"No comment,'' he said. "I'm too angry."
And that was after a win.
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Cathy Henkel is the former long-time Sports Editor at The Seattle Times, with a 42-year newspaper career in Kansas, Arizona, Oregon and Washington. She covered high school and college basketball as a reporter in Oregon for 10 years, and watched her father coach prep sports while growing up in Kansas. She was named a Pioneer Award winner in 2005 by the Association for Women in Sports Media, an organization she helped found, and was named an outstanding alum at Wichita State University the same year. She also has a master's degree in counseling from the University of Arizona.