No Biggie

The East was supposed to overpower the smaller West team in the 2006 McDonald's Girls All-American Game, but Stanford-bound center and John R. Wooden MVP Jayne Appel and her Lilliputian teammates had other ideas. We have the notes, quotes and photos from an eventful evening in San Diego.

STORY & PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON


Jayne Appel of Pleasant Hill, Calif., scores a reverse layup.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - So much for all the bromides about size. That it matters. Or that bigger is better. If any of those were true, this would be the start of a tale of how the snarling beasts of the East snatched the fifth annual McDonald's All-American Girl's Game.

It's not.

Instead, for all the little people, we give you Jayne Appel, all, er, 6 feet 4 of her.


Brittainey Raven of Fort Worth, Texas
Well, OK, enough size matters. Bigger is better when it comes in a player who can patrol the lower blocks pre-emptively, own them on the attack, pass out of trouble, pass to open teammates on purpose, step out and shoot a jumper, step out even farther and still hit jumpers and slalom from one figurative coast to the other because she was afraid to pass the ball and make it all work. Then it would add up to an MVP award after leading the vastly outsized West to an 80-76 victory at San Diego State's Cox Arena.

If you had all that, you'd have Appel, the pride of Pleasant Hill, Calif., as well as Stanford University, her next stop for basketball and college. It's just that, not only is she the best and maybe only pure post among the Class of 2006 elites, she has a skillset diverse enough to earn her propers from the likes of that jitterbugging, ankle-breaking whisp of a guard, Dymond Simon, all of 5-5.

"Pretty good," Simon said of Appel's coast-to-coast foray, "for a post."

We can add honesty to the list of Appel's qualities. Of her basket-to-basket trip with just over five minutes left in the game, she admitted she was "scared to pass it; I was afraid it would be picked off." She made the trip pay, drawing a foul and collecting two of her 12 points from the foul line. Appel also had seven rebounds, two blocks, two steals and three straight buckets early in the second half that wrested control of the game from the East for good.

Viewed superficially, the result was a surprise even internally.


Allison Hightower of Arlington, Texas
"Honestly, when I first saw the roster, I said, 'Oh my God, they didn't give us anybody,' " said Simon, the Arizona State-bound guard who led all scorers with 14 points. "But at our first practice I saw when we ran the floor and said, 'Dang, we're going to kill the East squad.' If we had Jacki (Gemelos), we would have blown them out."

Gemelos, the No. 2 prospect in the nation, according to Full Court Press and HoopGurlz.com for Scout, sat out the game because of a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.

The talk about the East's size advantage was a little misplaced. Tina Charles, the nation's No. 1 player who is headed to Connecticut, is a forward; Amber Harris is 6-5 and Jessica Breland is 6-3 but both may be wings in college, and Kaili McLaren is 6-3, 235 pounds, but hit all three of her shots from the perimeter, where she is most comfortable. Plus, the showmanlike Simon, Amanda Thompson of Chicago and the Texas trio of Allison Hightower, Jordan Murphree and Brittaney Raven were good enough to have you humming "It's a Small World Afterall."

The Oklahoma-bound Thompson, the No. 7 prospect in the nation, according to Scout.com, led the West to a team approach, abandoning her own offense in favor of passing and defense. She finished with 11 points, four assists, five blocks and a steal and, as Appel pointed out, "when we were down, she got us going with her energy." And Hightower, of Arlington, Texas, and an LSU signee, hit the dagger, a three-pointer with 1:07 to play. Considering that she won the three-point shootout at Monday's Jam Fest, the surprise wasn't that she hit the shot, it was that the East left her wide open.

"I was very surprised," said Hightower, who had nine points, four steals and two blocks. "I was left wide open, so I thought I should hit it."

Truth be told, they all were just following the lead of their tallest player, Appel, in their small-ball approach. According to Simon, West coach Wade Vickery exhorted his team to "keep doing what Jayne is doing."

And they did, no matter their size.


Adrian McGowen of Goodrich, Texas, and Porsha Phillips of Stone Mountain, Ga.

Amber White of Coatesville, Pa.




(CLICK ON NAMES FOR PROFILES)



Dymond Simon

3. Dymond Simon
5-5 guard
St. Mary's High School
Headed to Arizona State University

Comment: Simon really can have it both ways. Her diminuitive size accentuates her quick hands and feet, making her the most entertaining player in high school and soon to be college. But she also has enough ups to play several inches taller, either for jumpers or hanging penetrations. She stroked the three, penetrated the lane and delivered dishes off the dribble - pretty complete.




(CLICK ON NAMES FOR PROFILES)



Tina Charles

2. Tina Charles
6-3 forward
Christ the King
Headed to University of Connecticut

Comment: Under normal circumstances, 12 points, nine rebounds, a block and a steal in an all-star setting is pretty stellar, but the West has got to feel like it dodged a bullet with Charles. She's used to outworking everyone else, but faced a team that flew all over the place - on defense and in transition. The West guards were just as disruptive to her game as Jayne Appel.




Glenn Nelson is the publisher of HoopGurlz.com and the editor-in-chief of Scout Media (www.Scout.com), an online sports network and magazine-publishing company and subsidiary of Fox Interactive Media. Glenn also founded and coached the Dragons and Northwest HoopGurlz select girls basketball teams. He previously was a longtime, national-award-winning basketball columnist and writer for The Seattle Times. His work also has appeared in several national magazines and books. He is co-author of "Rising Stars: The Ten Best Players in the NBA" (Rosen Publishing, 2002).

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