NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- A look back and forward to the Nike Nationals gold bracket semifinal between Essence and the Fairfax Stars on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. (EDT).
Alexis Prince (Maitland, Fla.), Essence: The No. 10 ranked player by ESPN HoopGurlz combines the holy trinity of size, athleticism and skills, making her one of the most challenging matchups for any opposing defense. On the perimeter or working in the paint there is a smooth and fluid movement to everything she does yet she's equally adept utilizing her size and strength in a power game. Off the dribble she can get to the rim effectively and has the length and vertical to take on any interior size rotating her way. Her ability to cut is highlighted by an extended stride and the ability to utilize her body to create separation. She can shoot the ball effectively spotting up virtually anywhere on the perimeter as well as elevating off the drive for a pullup. The challenge for her lies not with the physical or basketball skills but with ability to be an impact player on each and every possession.
-- Mark Lewis
How They Got Here: It was a tale of two halves in the quarterfinals for Essence. Led by Prince's 18, they built a 22-point halftime lead over All Ohio, only to commit 12 turnovers in the second half before hanging on for a 65-61 victory.
Road to the Championship: When Alexis Prince takes 12-15 shots, her super-athletic teammates can find the way to close the deal.
Breyana Mason (Woodbridge, Va.), Fairfax Stars: With her icy cool demeanor, the 5-8 lefty is the perfect complement to her fiery backcourt mate, Katie McCormick. As big guard she rebounds her position extremely well and can get the ball up the floor quickly in transition. Mason's strong upper body give a huge advantage over smaller perimeter defenders – she can drive them down in to the paint and finish through contact. Along with that she demonstrates excellent game management skills understanding of when she needs to put her team on her back. After a 14-2 run by All Iowa, she made a tough bucket that got the Fairfax Stars back on track to eventually secure the victory. Mason is the type of player who thrives under pressure, which will server her and her team well as they move on to the next round.
-- Lisa Bodine
How They Got Here: After trading baskets early, the Fairfax Stars opened up a 12-3 lead on All Iowa Attack in the games first five minutes by getting contributions from all of their starters. All Iowa cut the lead to one point with 6:29 to go the Stars went on a 16-0 rampage over the next five minutes to ice the game.
Road to the Championship: Control the tempo to keep Brionna Jones on the floor and dominating the paint.
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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.
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.