CHANDLER, Ariz. -- There was plenty on the line Tuesday with all of the divisions holding their respective semifinal rounds.
Most high-school players would feel terrific about a 19-point game. Imagine the feeling Seton Catholic Prep's Theresa Wirth had when she ripped the nets of Basha High School for that same tally in the first half of her team's win over Long Beach Jordan.
Wirth, a 6-foot wing who signed with Denver in the fall, had everything going for her and to make matters worse for Long Beach Jordan on Tuesday, she knew it and was getting after it. She has a really nice stroke from behind the arc and was aggressive in looking for those opportunities. She punished defenders who finally started running out on her by putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim as well as hitting pull-up jumpers. Wirth was also the first one to get her hands on her few misses as well as collecting offensive rebounds from her teammates misfires. Though she's a wing player she had no problem elevating in traffic and converting on many of those boards for gimmees to keep her mojo going.
Wirth was much quieter in the second half but the theme of the day must have been the exceptional half with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' 25 first half points for Mater Dei followed by the show Arriya Crook-Williams put on in the second half for Long Beach Poly. Wirth definitely did her part and if she can find that aggressiveness offensively for entire games, she's going to be an impact player in the Mile High City.
It's day three of the Tournament of Champions, and you know what that means - the energy and excitement of the first game -- gone; the air of anticipation and adrenaline -- gone; the ability to be playing for a championship trophy (for most teams) -- gone. So what's left? The true warriors. The kids who show up to play despite being tired. Despite the travel bug biting them in the rear. Despite long days of game preparation followed by longer nights at chain restaurants. What's left are the kids who came to make something of themselves. To make something of their teams. And at the end of the day, Victoria Wells of Sierra Canyon demonstrated that she could be counted on as one of those warriors. Victoria Wells put on her sneakers today and made herself, and her team, better.
Wells, a senior from Chatsworth, Calif, is a guard-forward at 5-8. Her impact on the game would have her seem much bigger. It was clear when the game began that Wells could score both on the perimeter as well as using a hard bounce attacking the rim. Despite efficient play by Sierra Canyon, Wells' Lady Trailblazers found themselves in a deep hole to the high-scoring Campolindo Cougars (Moraga, Calif.). Down 13 points at the end of the first quarter, Wells decided enough was enough. She turned up the intensity, and in doing so turned up all aspects of her game. She was active on the defensive end, using her long wingspan combined with her quick athletic step to jump lanes and create turnovers. She focused on finishing on the offensive end, and was relentless at chasing down loose balls and rebounds. Wells is an impact player who is not only talented, but also skilled. The end result was an exciting and hard-fought win for her team over Campolindo, and a chance to walk out of the gym with a smile on her face knowing she had done another days worth of hard work at the TOC.
The Nike Tournament of Champions usually offers up the opportunity to challenge yourself while facing competition from other parts of the country. Tuesday Lauren Evans and her teammates found themselves in a White Division semifinal matchup against cross-town Phoenix competition, Pinnacle High School.
The 6-0 guard wasted no time in establishing herself early as an offensive threat both in transition and the halfcourt. Her willingness to get out and run the lanes gave her the opportunity to create both penetration as well as pull up jumpers off early entry passes. She has the ability to get a defender out of her stance with effective shot and pass fakes as well as some aggressive individual ballhandling skills. On the drive the 2012 standout has the vision to see the floor as well as deliver the ball as opposing defenders rotate her way.
Despite a somewhat lean physical build Evans is willing to take it into traffic and occasionally can offer up some creative finishes. While the form on her perimeter shot appears sound and the results are efficient, the motion isn't yet that completely fluid stroke she'll need for consistency down the road. Defensively she's active and anticipates well off the ball. Additional physical strength and maturity should put her in the position to match up with bigger guards and wings at the next level. Evans is the kind of athlete that catches your eye with her play but catches your attention with her promise.
At 6-1, sophomore post Chantel Osahor is one of more physical players at this year's TOC. Against Mt. Lebanon (Pittsburgh, Pa.) she had to shoulder the load for her team in more ways than one. In previous games she seemed to be content with making the extra pass to a teammate on the wing instead of looking for her own shot even when she had her defender sealed in the post. With St. Mary's (Phoenix, Ariz.) playing from behind for the majority of the game, Osahor was the one player who remained constant and steady on the floor. She was a dominant presence in the post attacking the glass going up for multiple rebounds during a possession; she has great hands, which allowed her to keep the ball secure in heavy traffic.
Osahor was very effective at setting screens, which resulted in getting her teammates good looks at the basket. When St. Mary's made their final push during the fourth quarter, she was the player who sparked off a seven-point run to get them within striking distance. At the high school level she is a player that can control the action in the paint on either side of the ball, she has good center of gravity, which makes it easy for her to back down her defender to the low block. She is also comfortable facing the basket and isn't afraid to shoot from 3-point range, which is an option she has in the St. Mary's offense. If she concentrates on her physical conditioning and perimeter skills, Osahor has the potential to be solid four at the next level.
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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
Kara (Harrison) Howe founded and coached in the Utah Sky club program, which sent several players, including sister Michelle, now a junior at Stanford, to Division I schools. She played college basketball at Utah Valley State, was an all-state performer at Alta High School in Sandy, Utah, and coached high school in the Salt Lake area. Howe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa Bodine is a national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. A native of Queens, N.Y., she began her coaching career in 1993 with the NY Gazelles, has coached with D.C.-based Team Unique, and in 2009 she was named DAC Co-Coach of the Year after leading Wakefield Country Day School in Flint Hill, Va., to its first-ever conference title. She can be reached at email@example.com.