The Big Three in California has been the big story on the national stage all season. Much has been written about Brea-Olinda (Brea, Calif.), Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), and Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) and the trio is atop the FAB 50 in that order for yet another week.
The huge shadow cast by those three programs leaves several other Golden State teams without the equivalent fanfare to match its success. Both St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.) and Troy (Fullerton, Calif.) have posted great records while playing national competitors.
So far, both teams have navigated a tough schedule without being under the microscope and without the pressure to be No. 1 in the nation.
Tom Gonsalves, the head coach at St. Mary's (15-2), is no stranger to the national spotlight. With last year's squad featuring two McDonald's All Americans, the expectations were sky high. With those two, Chelsea Gray (Duke) and Afure Jemerigbe (Cal), now in college, the pressure from outside the program was lifted, but not the team's expectations.
The Rams of St. Mary's posted a respectable 2-2 mark at the Nike Tournament of Champions in December. The event gave Gonsalves' team its only two losses of the season so far, to the current Nos. 1 and 11 teams, Brea-Olinda and Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) while notching wins over Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) and Memphis Central (Memphis, Tenn.)
St. Mary's was supposed to have a rematch with Riverdale Baptist in Stockton. And also was supposed to make a trip back east to play more national competition. Mother Nature intervened and kept those matchups from taking place.
St. Mary's is likely to cruise into state though an upcoming game at Hanford (Hanford, Calif.) is a matchup ripe for upset.
Troy (22-3) didn't have the same bad luck with travel as St. Mary's did. Head coach Roger Anderson took his team to South Carolina to play in the Crescent Bank Invitational.
In South Carolina, Troy drew a Who's Who of the South. The Warriors first beat Goose Creek (Goose Creek, S.C.) 48-32, a team ranked 17th at the time. Troy then beat Fayette County (Fayetteville, Ga.) 46-45, the 37th ranked team at the time starring Connecticut signee Brianna Banks and South Carolina signee Elem Ibiam. For an encore, Rogers' team took down then-No. 13 Norcross (Norcross, Ga.) 56-51.
Troy would fall to Spring Valley (Columbia, S.C.), 53-42, but put itself on the map. Not bad for a team that, according to Rogers, lost 80 percent of its offense to graduation.
Rogers was the associate head coach at Brea-Olinda under Jeff Sink before taking over a Troy program that had national pop under Kevin Kiernan, now at Mater Dei.
Both coaches will return a majority of their respective rosters next season and are enjoying the youthful chemistry on each team.
"I always felt like I had to get Afure the same number of shots as Chelsea," Gonsalves said of last year's squad.
Gonsalves has rolled out six different starting lineups and enjoys being able to push his players that much harder in practice, dangling spots in the starting lineup as carrots.
"For the last three years you pretty much knew who was starting every game," Gonsalves said.
Troy knows very well what lies ahead. Rogers has his team poised to give
whichever team that emerges from the Big Three and the Division I-A southern section, assuming his team takes care of Division I-AA, a run for its money.
Troy scrimmages Brea Olinda and has played Poly half a dozen times in recent years. The team lost to Poly at the beginning of the season, but without Rogers coaching, who was sick. And without senior captain Madalene Barrett, who was finishing her volleyball season.
While Rogers says his team respects all those teams, there isn't any intimidation.
"We know we can play them," Rogers said.
Next season, the spotlight may put a little more heat on these two teams. But for the time being, both are enjoying competing in the cooler shadows cast by a rare group of in-state powers.
-- Chris Hansen
Virginia-bound guard Bria Smith led Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) with 31 points in itswin over Nazareth (Brooklyn, N.Y) Friday. The two schools split their two games this season. ... Samantha Logic of Racine Case (Racine, Wisc.) finished with six points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and four steals in Racine Case's 67-39 victory over Kenosha Tremper (Kenosha, Wisc.) last week. The Iowa-bound senior will find out Thursday if she has been selected to the McDonald's All American team. The team will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 10, on ESPNU. ... Rebecca Greenwell, a 6-foot-1 sophomore out of Owensboro Catholic (Owensboro, Ky.) had a very impressive showing at the Kentucky All "A" Classic this past week. Greenwell scored 132 points in four games which broke the record for total points scored in the classic. She also grabbed 56 rebounds. In the championship game against Monroe County (Tompkinsville, Ky.), Greenwell dropped 33 points, snatched 14 rebounds, gathered 4 steals, and 4 assists as she led her team to the gold. With that effort she claimed the tournament Most Valuable Player honors. ... Oak Hill Academy's 5-9 junior, Nirra Fields, recorded a notable double-double last week against Franklin County High School (Rocky Mount, Va.). Fields dominated the paint with 41 points while additionally grabbing 10 rebounds. The Canadian born guard played for the Canadian U17 cadet team this past summer, leading the FIBA U17 World Championship in scoring average.
Weather has wreaked havoc on the 2010-11 season and the impact even made its way to Texas last week. The frigid temperatures impacted two power plants in the Lone Star state, forcing some areas to suffer through rolling blackouts. Many schools were told the power would be off for just 15 minutes but some encountered several hour outtages. This issue on top of the ice led to several more postponed games even as road conditions began to improve. One of the few teams to get a game in was DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas), which beat North Mesquite (Mequite, Texas) 90-24. DeSoto be Lee (Tyler, Texas) Monday night to improve to 28-4 heading into the last regular season game this week.
-- Rebecca Gray and Chris Hansen
Unbeaten and ranked No. 11 last week, St. John's (D.C.) arguably was in position to climb into the highest 3-5 spots, maybe all the way to the top, if everything fell into place. "Everything" did not include losing, however, and Academy of the Holy Cross (Kensington, Md.) had other ideas for its Washington Catholic League rivals.
Pandora Wilson, a junior, collected her 10th rebound of the game, off a teammate's miss, and scored the game-winner during Holy Cross' 59-58 upset on St. John's home floor. Wilson also had 16 points and Lanay Montgomery, a 6-foot-5 junior, had 16 rebounds, to go along with 14 points, as the Tartans owned the glass while rallying from a 10-point, third-quarter deficit. Holy Cross improved to 18-4 and fought its way into the Fab 50, while dropping St. John's to No. 19 and out of the national-championship picture.
Also out east, Virginia-bound Bria Smith, the No. 8 prospect in the ESPN HoopGurlz 100 for the 2011 class, scorched then-No. 22 Nazareth Regional (Brooklyn, N.Y.) for 31 points in leading Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) to a 74-57 spanking. The Royals avenged an earlier loss to Nazareth, which was only their third regular-season loss in 11 years.
In Minnesota, Eden Prairie (Eden Prairie, Minn.) knocked off previously unbeaten and last week's No. 46 team, Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.), 71-65. The big upset avenged a Dec. 30, loss to Hopkins and was followed up with wins over Minnetonka (Minnetonka, Minn.) 65-54 and DeLaSalle (Minneapolis, Minn.) 83-62. The three-win week elevated Eden Prairie (17-2) into the top 50.
As for the rest of the country, it was as regular as Rawhide, as in rolling-rolling-rolling (those who get this reference just hit the Daily Double in the Clint Eastwood on TV category for $500) for the elites in league play.
This coming week could have been different as No. 5 Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) was scheduled to play No. 14 Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) at The Mecca Girls High-School Challenge this weekend in the Bronx, N.Y. However, Neptune has backed out, according to organizers, leaving Potter's almost 1,000 miles up I-95 without the elite matchup it thought it was putting in all the roadwork for. A victory, coupled with titles in the three national tournaments they have left on their schedule, could have given the Lions a compelling case for a national high-school championship.
-- Glenn Nelson
Records are through Feb. 7, 2011 games, where reported.
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ESPN HOOPGURLZ HS RANKINGS PANEL
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Gray is an intern for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously wrote a column for the website about her experiences as a freshman on basketball scholarship at the University of North Carolina. She transferred to and played at Kentucky and now plays basketball and golf at Union College. A 5-foot-10, sharp-shooting guard out of Georgetown, Ky., Gray was named Miss Basketball in the state of Kentucky after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 4.8 assists during her senior season at Scott County High School. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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.
Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the Parade All-American Selection Committee, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.