Editor's note: ESPN will release the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national girls' basketball rankings each Wednesday of the season.
One acrobatic shot was all it took to propel No. 2 Ben Davis (Indianapolis) over No. 1 South Bend Washington (South Bend, Ind.).
When Ben Davis sophomore Bria Goss went for the basket Saturday with less than 10 seconds remaining on the clock, she had a teammate open in the corner behind the three-point line and defenders closing in. Two of the team's senior starters, Alex Bentley and sister DeAirra Goss, were on the bench after fouling out a few minutes before and Bria Goss already had the ball in her hands, so she drove.
She barely got past the free-throw line, about 10 feet from the basket, and started to lose her balance. So the smart 5-foot-9 sophomore threw the ball toward the basket and heard the crowd erupt as she fell to the ground, not seeing her shot bank high and go in for a 71-69 lead.
South Bend Washington called a timeout, stopping the clock at 1.4 seconds, but a long three from All-American Skylar Diggins fell short at the buzzer and mayhem erupted. Freshman Brionna Arnold hoisted Goss into the air first, before her teammates encircled her in celebration.
The photos and questions from reporters overlapped for nearly 20 minutes as the Panthers lost their third state championship game in four years and the Giants won in their first appearance since 2001, when they claimed the second of back-to-back titles. Even through the tears, both of sadness and joy, the players on both sides knew they'd just been part of something special -- at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, in front of more than 13,000 fans, the land of the Hoosiers played host Saturday to a high school game that rarely is played -- a national championship.
Many of the postgame questions and answers revolved around a "mythical national title" and the high quality of Indiana girls basketball this season. Amid the questions, Ben Davis coach Stan Benge looked at one reporter after the game and his grin that had yet to disappear grew even larger.
"We're number one now, right?" Benge prodded.
Ben Davis Giants, welcome to the top spot in the ESPN RISE FAB 50.
South Bend Washington held the top spot in the rankings for two months, running up a 26-0 record that included winning the T-Mobile Invitational, until the Indiana 4A title game turned into a de facto national championship.
Benge's third state championship team in his 24 years at the Giants' helm ran through a gamut of in-state opponents and stomped No. 4 Bolingbrook (Ill.) by 14 early in the season. Ben Davis convincingly beat opponents by an average of 29.8 points on the way to becoming the first team in Indiana girls basketball history to finish 30-0. Single digits decided just two games in the 30-win campaign -- an early February victory against Terre Haute (Ind.) South, 54-51, and the state championship -- and only two saw the Giants score fewer than 50 points.
It surely was a season to treasure for both teams, but the Giants got the last bucket in the end.
In a bordering state, another game between two top-five teams was overshadowed by Indiana's big day. Then-No. 4 Whitney Young (Chicago) and then-No. 5 Bolingbrook (Ill.) found themselves in a rematch of the 2008 title game for Illinois' 4A crown. But in stark contrast to a year ago when Young won, Bolingbrook built up an 11-point lead after one quarter and never looked back. The talented Raiders, who finished second in December's Nike Tournament of Champions, claimed a 53-29 victory Saturday. Led by freshman Morgan Tuck's 17 points and nine rebounds, only seniors Satavia Taylor, who helped the Raiders win the state title as a freshman, and Candace Nevels won't return next season.
With playoffs continuing and state tournaments winding down, Colorado will grab the spotlight this week when it crowns champions Friday. Should Wednesday's semifinals go as expected, Continental League rivals No. 15 Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.) and No. 34 Highlands Ranch (Colo.) will face off Friday for the 5A title while undefeated No. 43 Broomfield (Colo.) goes after the 4A trophy. Highlands Ranch won the regular season meeting by three, but Regis Jesuit must first avenge an early season loss to 25-1 Horizon (Thornton, Colo.) in one semifinal.
Off the bounce
New York's private schools get back to work this week, headlined by a Friday meeting between No. 10 St. Michael Academy (New York City) and traditional power Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.). No. 25 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) won the National Association of Christian Athletes' tournament with a championship-game win against Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). The Crusaders also beat then-No. 9 Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Oak Hill the semifinals and quarterfinals, respectively. The final fours spun Texas on its toes, as Summit (Arlington, Texas) beat then-No. 40 Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas), the defending state champions, 49-39 in the semifinals and then-No. 16 Nimitz (Houston), despite 22 points and 12 rebounds from All-American Brittney Griner, 52-43 in the 5A championship. In 4A, Waco Midway (Waco, Texas) beat Mansfield Timberview (Arlington, Texas), 50-27, behind 17 points and 11 rebounds from senior Cokie Reed. In Tennessee, three Fab 50 teams made early exits from the playoffs, including then-No. 12 Oak Ridge (Tenn.), then-No. 18 Millington (Tenn.) and then-No. 46 Wilson Central (Lebanon, Tenn.). No. 21 Memphis Central (Memphis, Tenn.) begins quarterfinal play Thursday. Saturday, No. 28 Cajon (San Bernadino, Calif.) upset defending Divison I-AA champion Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), 52-44, behind 28 points from California signee Layshia Clarendon, for the CIF Southern Section title. Both teams advanced to the CIF Division I-AA playoffs. Behind 27 points from Rayven Johnson and 21 points and 11 rebounds from Charmaine Tay on Thursday, Bloomfield Tech (Bloomfield, N.J.) eliminated then-No. 32 University (Newark, N.J.) from sectional play, 60-57. In North Carolina, No. 33 West Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.) eliminated then-No. 45 East Mecklenburg (Charlotte, N.C.) and then-No. 24 Butler (Matthews, N.C.) on back-to-back nights to advance to North Carolina's 4A championship for the second time in as many years. Florida-bound senior Christal Caldwell led the Lions with 28 points in Saturday's semifinal victory against Butler. With a 46-37 victory Saturday against South Eugene (Eugene, Ore.), Oregon City (Ore.) claimed Oregon's 6A title for its 11th state title in school history and 24th consecutive state trophy. After winning three straight South Carolina 4A titles then dropping from 4A to 3A in the summer, No. 31 Lower Richland (Hopkins, S.C.) won its first 3A title Saturday with a 66-42 win against Darlington. In Arizona, Highland (Gilbert, Ariz.) defeated St. Mary's (Phoenix), 51-48, to capture a second consecutive 5A-I title behind 24 points from senior Morgan Wohltman. More states crown champions this week, including Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as select classifications in Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
A handful of teams enter the FAB 50 this week, led by Summit (Arlington, Texas), which debuts at No. 20 by winning the 5A Texas title. Also new to the mix are No. 45 Fayetteville (Ark.), No. 46 Waco Midway (Waco, Texas) which won the 4A Texas title, No. 48 Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.) and No. 50 Midwest City (Okla.).
Chaminade-Julienne (Dayton, Ohio) falls out with a 52-49 loss to Mason (Ohio) in the regional quarterfinals, ending its season at 18-6. East Mecklenburg (Charlotte, N.C.) drops from the Fab 50 with its first loss of the season to a team other than Butler. Friday, West Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.) eliminated East Mecklenburg in the state quarterfinals, 46-41, to end the Eagles' season at 25-5. Wilson Central (Lebanon, Tenn.) exits the national rankings with a 51-49 loss to Lavergne (Tenn.), closing its season at 27-4. Manhattan Center (New York City), now 21-5, drops out with a season-ending loss to John F. Kennedy (New York City). Dulles (Sugar Land, Texas), which ended its season at 36-3 a week ago with a loss to Nimitx, also gets bumped.
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Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She 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 McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Records through March 8.