CHANDLER, Ariz. -- The final day of the Nike Tournament of Champions means it is title time for the teams surviving the first three days of intense competition.
John Anderson Division
For a senior who's come up short in this tournament her last three years, the six-hour drive home tonight will be a little easier this time around. Bonnie Samuelson's game-high 31 points provided the punch Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) needed to outlast an Etiwanda (Calif.) team that refused to go away.
"I started feeling it in the second half and we got a good flow going," said Bonnie Samuelson, who was fighting a flu bug.
But Samuelson had some help from her younger sister. Karlie Samuelson, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, came out hot. She scored 13 of her team's 16 first quarter points. She ended with 19.
"Karlie, for sure, has been keeping us in every single game in the first half," said Bonnie Samuelson, a Stanford signee. "She's been dominating. She's been amazing."
Jada Blackwell, an Arizona State signee, scored a team high 23 points for Etiwanda but it wasn't enough to overcome the 50-point Samuelson duo.
Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, Calif.) rolled to a 16-0 lead en route to rocking Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Ca.) 75-54 for the Red Division title at the Nike Tournament of Champions.
Sparked by the impressive 32-point performance of 5-foot-8 junior Kelsey Minato, 23 points in the first half and six three-pointers in all, Huntington Beach took its third TOC crown, the previous ones in 2006 and 2007.
"That was an out-of-body experience,'' a beaming Beach coach Russell McClurg said afterward. "Kelsey is a big-game girl and that was her personal best."
Minato kept tossing in one three after another, finding herself in the proverbial zone. "I tried not to let it get into my head,'' she said. "But if they're going to give me the shot, I'm going to take it."
College recruiters take note: Minato, who's been playing hoops since she was two years old, says she'd like to go to college in California.
-- Cathy Henkel
Villa Park (Calif.) isn't loaded with athletes nor does it have tremendous size. But the Spartans do have an unassuming star player who keeps her team cool in the craziest of moments. Connie Ballestero, a 5-foot-9 guard, saw her team get down early to the Bishop's School (La Jolla, Calif.), battle back to take the lead for most of the second half only to lose it before heading to overtime. She finished tied for a game-high 21 points, including the game winner with 32 seconds left in overtime.
Ballestero and her teammates are used to winning but found going a perfect 4-0 difficult. The team rallied back against a Sacramento team, which like Bishop's had advantages in quickness on the perimeter and length in the paint, in the semifinal behind their steady junior leader. With both teams struggling to make enough plays to pull the game out, Ballestero came to the rescue with a baseline drive and finish that put her team up for good, 54-50.
"I knew that we could get through it at the end if we just grinded it out," Ballestero said.
Bishop's senior point guard, Alissa Campanero, who matched Ballestero's 21 points, willed her team back into the game, hitting two huge threes at the 3:53 and 3:00 minute marks of the fourth quarter. She scored 10 of those points in that key fourth quarter but came up a play short.
Villa Park senior post MyKayla Harris scored six points in overtime, giving her 18 in the game. She scored on back-to-back plays, first by rebounding her own miss to cut the early overtime deficit to three and following it up on a power drop step, finishing and getting fouled. And where Bishops struggled from the free-throw line, Harris completed her three-point play, tying the game and setting up Ballestero to save the day.
-- Chris Hansen
It was a hard fought battle early Wednesday evening between two evenly matched teams, Narbonne (Harbor City, Calif.) and Clackamas (Ore.), for the White Division Championship at the Nike Tournament of Champions.
While both teams played hard and desperately wanted to capture one more win before packing up and heading home, only the Clackamas Cavaliers had a dominant post player named Jen Reese, a difference maker. Behind the strong play of Reese, Clackamas was able to defeat Narbonne 48-41.
The game saw both teams struggle to find consistency or rhythm on the offensive end, which kept the score close. Tailer Butler, a senior guard for Narbonne, made many key plays including three 3-point baskets to keep Narbonne in the hunt. But in the end, the inside presence of Reese was too much for Narbonne to handle. Reese hauled down 13 rebounds, had three blocked shots, and added 15 points in her efforts.
"I feel really good about my game," Reese said. "We came out in the second and were energized. That was the difference for our team, we were energized."
-- Kara Howe
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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.
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 email@example.com.
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.