WBB: End of the Trail - Day One

Amid a sea of opening day blowouts were nail biters between Southridge High School and West Coast Elite, as well as the Spokane Stars Blue and Georgia Metros.

OREGON CITY, Ore., July 5 – As expected, the first day of the End of the Trail girl's basketball tournament was filled with its fair share of blowouts due to the seeding that takes place. Of course the seeding isn't perfect and teams aren't always on the same level. Besides the blowouts, there were two outstanding games today, a bracket game between Southridge High School and West Coast Elite and an exhibition game between defending champion Spokane Stars Blue and the Georgia Metros.

The story of the Southridge-West Coast Elite game was defense and JJ Hones. The Southridge press generated enough turnovers to take a 31-23 half time lead to a 57-51 victory led by their standout point guard Hones who controlled the tempo of the game in the half court offensively scoring 18 in the game and dropping dime after dime. This was with serious ball pressure from the West Coast Elite. Most would probably have fit Southrigde as the underdogs because West Coast Elite has the Neabors sisters, Italee Lucas and Abi Olajuwon. Despite giving up size and athleticism, Southridge triumphed with execution and toughness.

The best game of the day, however, was a bruising slugfest between the Spokane Stars Blue and the southern powerhouse Georgia Metros. This was a matchup of two of the best players in the country for the class of 2007 in Georgia's Maya Moore and Spokane's Angie Bjorklund, both of whom participated in last week's invitation-only Nike Girls Skills Academy.

The two stars had decidedly different paths in the game. Moore was virtually unstoppable when she caught the ball on the block or had it in the open court. She started the game off with a three ball and a sweet drive to the basket and continued strong play offensively and defensively throughout the game, finishing with 25 points, 14 in the second half. Bjorklund started the game out quickly as well, hitting a three during the opening possession and another jumper shortly after. At that point the Metros used 6-foot-1 Jordan Greenleaf to face-guard her and blanket her wherever she went.

The game was very physical in the packed back gym at the old Oregon City High School. Bjorklund had a bigger players hanging on her the entire game, limiting her scoring. But her teammates picked up the slack en route to a 67-57 Spokane win. Despite being removed from her normal scoring roles by the blanketing physical defense the young guard kept her composure throughout and never showed the frustration that had to seeping in. She moved very well without the ball and when the defense cheated, the stars found 5-11 forward Heidi Heinz inside who battled inside against the taller, longer and more athletic interior players of the Metros. The seemingly diminutive forward scored a huge 14 points in the game and came up big every time her team needed a bucket. She also threw her body around trying to box out the large front line of the Metros and given the size disadvantage I would say she was successful.

Another Stars player coming up big was 5-7 Sarah Morton. The class of 2007 point guard scored 14 in the game and converted 9-10 free throws, several down the stretch to stop the run of Georgia. She also came up big with free throws in April at the Arizona Elite spring tournament in Tempe during the Stars' win over the Cal Swish – Black in the championship. Also impressing was Georgia-commit Ashley Houts. The 5-6 point guard is a handful with handle and shake galore.

The best individual performance was by Moore, who was outstanding in the open court, soaring to the basket, at one point taking off from just inside the free throw -ine and finishing with a nice finger role. She looked in her element around the basket. She showed the ability to shoot over taller players and use the glass on the angle. She had some strong moves off the pivot off of face ups and reverse pivots. Add to her 25 points a couple of high flying blocked shots and you have yourself a great game from one of the best in the country.

In other action the East Bay Xplosion rolled in their morning bracket game past an overmatched Southwest Rebels team 69-35. UConn-commit Jacki Gemelos scored 21 in the game, leading all scorers, but looked a little rusty in the open court turning the ball over trying to make some difficult passes. Jayne Appel, one of the most sought-after posts in the country, had a strong game from the paint and scoring from the high post scoring 20 in the win. She was just to big and strong for the Rebels to handle.

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