What a week. For the first time since late December, the POWERADE FAB 50 has a new No. 1. Well not completely new since Mater Dei (Santa Ana,Calif.) started the season atop the high school girls basketball national team rankings before a single loss, at the hands of Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), put Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.) in that spot for the last two-plus months.
Playoff basketball is the biggest pressure cooker to test a team's mettle, and because of it we put heavy weight on the results as they pertain to national rankings. Lose to a team in November but end their season in March, and it's pretty simple to decide which game is of greater significance.
Mater Dei's 63-54 win over Brea Olinda set the stage for the rematch in the Southern Regional playoffs to be, effectively, a national championship game, even before a state champion is crowned.
In Texas, MacArthur (Irving, Texas) used a triple-double from super junior guard Alexis Jones to win the Texas High School Athletic Association title and elevate its status into the top 15 with the likes of a fellow Texas team and 10th-ranked Westbury Christian (Houston, Texas), which won the TAPPS title for private schools this weekend as well.
Unlike California, Texas is done for the season, but several states have plenty of major games remaining with a chance to further shake up the FAB 50 in the season's final weeks.
Potter's House Christian Academy (Jacksonville, Fla.) has two championship tournaments remaining, even though the Florida High School Athletic Association teams have been done for a week, the NCSAA Nationals March 10-12 and the USA Prep Championships March 17-18.
Georgia is down to its final four teams in each classification. Norcross (Norcross, Ga.),the defending 5A champion, draws Campbell, and a win would have the nation's 30th-ranked team facing the winner of McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.), a team it beat in November by five, and Mill Creek (Mill Creek, Ga.), a team it has beaten twice this season, on March 11 for the class 5A state title.
In the smaller classifications of the Georgia High School Association, No. 20 Wesleyan (Norcross, Ga.) looks to solidify its top-25 status and claim to top billing in the state by winning the Class A title. In class AA, Buford (Buford, Ga.) is looking to reclaim its national status with a convincing run to the state title, but could face Greater Atlanta Christian (Norcross, Ga.) in the March 12 finale, a team that found a way to knock off the Wolves once in three prior meetings.
In Tennessee, Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) got some redemption with a 15-point blasting of Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), the team that stung the Lady Warriors for their only loss of the season in February, thus dashing any hopes of a run to national No. 1. Ending the season on a high note and a Class 3A championship could lift Riverdale back into the top 10.
Still alive in the Volunteer State with national aspirations, along with Riverdale, are regionally ranked Wilson Central (Lebanon, Tenn.), No. 29 Clarksville (Clarksville, Tenn.), and previous top-20 but currently unranked Memphis Central (Memphis, Tenn.).
New Jersey and Virginia are still in action as No. 5 Princess Anne (Virginia Beach, Va.) and No. 8 Shabazz (Newark, N.J.) both look to avoid the playoff upsets that have cost several other top-10 teams their perch among the nation's elite teams.
New York may be home to the Empire State of Mind but Jay-Z and Alicia Keys only can be repping for Nazareth (Brooklyn, N.Y.) at the moment, as the sole NYC team in the FAB 50. Despite the drama surrounding coach Apache Paschall this season and the legality of the recruiting in his program and his subsequent suspension for speaking out about it, Nazareth is the only team from the entire state to stay in the FAB 50 for the entire season to date.
A quartet of teams from New York are primed in the regional rankings and ready to make a jump into the top 50, but only two, Murry Bergtram (Manhattan, N.Y.) and Chris the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), call the concrete jungle, that is the five boroughs, home. St. Anthony's (Melville, N.Y.) is looking to bring some buzz to Long Island while upstate it is the Northstars of Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.) looking to bring a spot in the FAB 50 home for its part of New York.
Check back in another week to see which teams are still standing and which teams crack under the playoff pressure.
-- Chris Hansen
Through an extended partnership with When We Were Young Productions/PlayOn Sports, ESPN3.com will broadcast the Tennessee State Championships live.
Saturday, March 12: Tennessee 1A final, 3:00 p.m.; Tennessee 2A final, 5:00 p.m.; Tennessee 3A final, 7:00 p.m.
Replays of state playoffs from Indiana and Illinois are also available at ESPN3.com.
George Mason signee, Karin Robinson of The Mary Louis Academy (Jamaica Estates, N.Y.) scored 10 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter to lead her team to a 50-42 upset of Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I semifinals on Thursday. ... Sophomore guard Kaela Davis scored 21 points in the first half for Buford (Buford, Ga.) in the Lady Wolves 67-28 win over Rabun County (Clayton, Ga.) on Friday. The win put the Tennessee commit and her teammates in the AA semifinals this week. Davis finished with 24 points in the game. ... Brock High School (Brock, Texas) won its third straight AA title with a 47-26 win over Winnsboro (Winnsboro, Texas). Junior wing Kamy Cole, an Oklahoma commit, led all scorers with 21 points. She will be going for four straight state titles next year as a senior.
In honor of their former teammate, Tina Stewart, Memphis Central High School (Memphis, Tenn.) warmed-up in purple shirts with the picture of Stewart on the front. Central played like a very inspired team Saturday night as they blew past their sectional rival, Hardin County (Savannah, Tenn.) with a final score of 77-46. Stewart was a 21-year-old junior at Middle Tennessee State University who was killed in an altercation with her roommate last Wednesday night.
Claire Conricode, the senior guard and University of Pacific signee, scored a game-high 20 points, 17 in the first half, for Holy Names Academy (Seattle, Wash.) in the AAA state title game, a 57-48 win over perennial state contender Prairie (Vancouver, Wash.). The Falcons of Prairie were without their best player, Heather Corral, for the second straight state tournament. Corral, a junior guard and younger sister of USC junior Ashley Corral, had surgery earlier in the week to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. A year ago she tore the same ligament in her right knee. Holy Names senior Erika Johnson, a Cal signee, got an unconventional double-double, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, in the game. ... In the Evergreen State's 4A title game, junior guard Devyn Galland scored 24 points to lead Lewis and Clark (Spokane, Wash.) to a 62-49 victory of Federal Way (Federal Way, Wash.). Talia Walton, a senior forward who signed with Washington, led Federal Way with 13 points. ... Marques Webb, a sophomore wing for Brewbaker Tech (Montgomery, Ala.), led her school to its first ever 4A state title. She scored 24 points on 11 of 15 shooting in Brewbaker Tech's 59-39 win over Midfield (Birmingham, Ala.) and earned Most Valuable Player honors for the 4A tournament.
-- Rebecca Gray and Chris Hansen
Now Alabama is a state the Musical Chairman can get his arms around. 'Bamans know how to do this. See, during the regular season, Hoover (Hoover, Ala.), ranked No. 20 in last week's Fab 50, was 2-1 against Bob Jones (Madison, Ala.), 2-0 against Madison Academy (Madison, Ala.), and couldn't get a game against Sparkman (Harvest, Ala.). Who do the Bucs play in the Alabama 6A championship? Bob Jones, which was 0-2 against Madison Academy and 0-2 against Sparkman, which it bounced in the state quarterfinals by a robust 27-19.
So the new 6A champs are ... you guessed it, Bob Jones, which finishes the season 31-7.
Gulp. What's next, some top-10 team imploding in its state tournament? Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.), come on down. First of all, someone in the Prairie State had the ridiculous notion that two straight years of Whitney Young and Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, Ill.) in the state 4A championship game was enough. What happened to three being a charm? So the Dolphins and the Raiders were seeded onto the same side of the bracket and met in the semifinals. Whitney Young led by five with a minute to go in regulation, then lost 50-49 in overtime and couldn't re-group for the third-place game, losing to Maine South (Park Ridge, Ill.).
Whitney Young didn't do its rival, Bolingbrook, any favors by taking the dive. The Raiders remain at No. 4 for barely slipping by the previous No. 10 team, which seriously diluted its power ranking by losing to Maine South.
We're avoiding the obvious for obvious reasons. If you're reading this, you likely know we started the season with Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) and Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.) 1-2. The two were 1-2, though reversed, going into Saturday's CIF Southern Section 1AA championship game, won by Mater Dei. We easily could have just reversed the two, but we like doing things the hard way, so we moved Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) into the No. 2 slot and slid Brea to No. 3. Our thinking? Brea has a chance to re-claim the No. 1 spot if it beats Mater Dei in what seems to be an inevitable rematch in the Southern California final on March 19. Potter's House can strengthen its claim on No. 2 -- even the top spot, should Mater Dei slip - if it beats No. 7 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) in the National Christian Schools Athletic Association championships this weekend in Beaver Falls, Pa.
In other major movement, Spring Valley (Spring Valley, S.C.) jumped to No. 9 after completing an unbeaten 29-0 season with a victory over then-No. 24 Goose Creek (Goose Creek, S.C.) in the South Carolina 4A championship game, but Monarch (Louisville, Colo.), Butler (Matthews, N.C.) and Troy (Fullerton, Calif.) all suffered postseason upset losses.
Ain't March just maddening?
-- Glenn Nelson
Records are through March 7, 2011 games, where reported.
* denotes a team's season has ended.
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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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.