Brea's desert triumph

Brea Olinda's Justine Hartman first got Long Beach Poly's Sheila Boykin into foul trouble, then had her way with smaller defenders like 5-9 Destiny King. Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- In this case, winner takes all means exactly that.

After winning the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions, Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.) also earns a No. 1 national ranking and, of course, bragging rights back in California.

All was accomplished by holding off Long Beach Poly 56-48 Wednesday in the championship game of the TOC's elite Joe Smith Division.

And if you listen to MVP Justine Hartman, the extra push came at halftime when coach Jeff Sink smashed his clipboard trying to get through to his team, down 31-26 at the break.

"He's a very good, uh, speaker,'' Hartman said with a grin. "But that's how he gets through to us. He's crazy and we know it and he knows it. He's never won this, and we wanted to do it for him.''

Sink demurred, "I was loquacious, and used some flowery language. And yes, the clipboard is now in 17 pieces.''

That's one piece for each of his 17 seasons coaching Brea, where he also teaches history. He made a little of his own Wednesday.

Sink had only four of his Ladycats score, led by the UCLA-bound Hartman, with 14 points and three blocked shots in the first half and finishing with a game-high 22 points. How sweet it is for her, after spending 14 months on the sideline, with ACL surgery and microfractures. She's been back in the game for just a month.

"She is unreal,'' Sink said.

Right behind Hartman was senior point guard Alexis Riley-Perry with 19 points. Perry calls herself "the best unsigned guard in the country," and hopes her performance here in Arizona will persuade a few more recruiters to look her way.

"Can't say enough about her,'' Sink added. "Friday she dislocates her shoulder, then come backs Wednesday to help lead us to a championship. She's terrific.''

The game was close throughout as Poly took a three-point lead in the first quarter and pushed it to five at the half, before the opposing coach started slamming his clipboard around. But Sheila Boykin, also UCLA bound, got her third foul soon into the third quarter and sat a while. Brea made good use of her absence to pull ahead and stay there.

Boykin finished with eight points, while her team was led in scoring by two seniors, Tajanae Winston with 18 and Ariya Crook-Williams with 12. Coach Carl Buggs used 11 players to go after the Ladycats. Destiny King, a 5-foot-9 guard who muscled up six points in the first quarter, had to spend most of the rest of the game chasing after the 6-2 Hartman. She never could quite catch up, with Brea outrebounding Poly in the final couple minutes to shut it down.

"I don't want the other team to break 50 points ever,'' Sink said. And they didn't.

Sink isn't stopping here, though he would have a lot of clover to roll around in if he chose to.

"I've said all along that we were going to win the whole thing," he said. "This is a dream team. I said we were going to win the CIF, state and the national titles. I don't think we're going to lose in January or February, either. Why not say that? Why not keep the bar as high as it can be?"

Especially when you back it up.

Follow us on Twitter, where you can ask questions and get instant updates.

Become a fan of the site on Facebook and get updates in your news stream.

Discuss this on our Message Board

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.