NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- A look back and forward to the Nike Nationals gold bracket semifinal between DFW T-Jack and the Tennessee Flight on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. (EDT).
Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas), DFW T-Jack: There has been no shortage of hype surrounding this 6-foot-3 rising sophomore. Running with T-Jack for the second half of July has been a rocky road for Turner, which included getting acclimated to a team that has been so successful even before her arrival, but her performance in the quarterfinal went a long way to back up what others have projected for her. She was a dominant force in the paint on both ends of the floor. She met every dump off-pass from her hyper-quick teammates and continued with the ball to the rim, several times finishing through contact, instead of popping and shooting jumpers. Just to top off her offensive game, she also scored a pair of back-to-the-basket post moves that showed she is working on her inside skills. Sure, DFW has dispatched Cy-Fair a few times already this year before Turner's addition -- and their senior-loaded roster and its exploits have been, deservedly, well documented -- but Turner provided the nitro boost (19 points) to the already supercharged DFW squad.
How They Got Here: DFW T-Jack drew a hot Cy-Fair team in the quarterfinals that had to play its way out of an 0-2 pool play mess and the Dallas-based program played it's best basketball of the club season, even better than it's championship win at Boo in April. An 8-2 run, spanning the first half's final four minutes opened the game up and T-Jack never looked back.
Road to the Championship: It's pretty simple for DFW -- be patient on offense and bring their trademark pressure on defense and they have as good a chance as any.
Shacobia Barbee (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Tennessee Flight: If you could describe this player in just a couple of words it would be: play maker. As soon as Barbee steps on the court, there is an immediate change of pace in the game as she is somewhat of a "spark" player. Her strong build and scrappy mentality provide a burst of energy to not only herself but her teammates as well. She has an excellent first step that allows her to blow past most defenders and her size enables her to finish with contact. When she drives through traffic, she has great court vision to either pick up an assist with a crafty pass or score an easy layup. The majority of the people she is guarding have trouble getting around her because of her quick footwork and strength. During the Tennessee Flight's win against the Cal Swish, Barbee came through with the smaller plays that usually go unseen by most people. She led the Flight in the first half with 12 points and had numerous plays where she was diving on the floor to save a loose ball. She scored the first five points coming out of halftime and set the tone for the rest of the game. Her energy was contagious and she continues to play a pivotal role in the Flight's success.
-- Rebecca Gray
How They Got Here: After dominating pool play, the Flight survived a 20-point, first-half blitz from the Swish's Karlee Samuelson that included six 3-pointers in the quarters. They managed to throttle her in the second half, mainly with Majorie Butler's face-guarding defense, and ratcheted up their defensive pressure and presence on the offensive boards for 71-55 victory.
Road to the Championship: If the Flight win a second straight Nike Nationals championship, he key is execution -- establishing their post presence and the guards continuing to knock down shots.
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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. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.