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.
Instead, for all the little people, we give you Jayne Appel, all, er, 6 feet 4 of her.
Brittainey Raven of Fort Worth, Texas
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
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.
|WEST'S TREMENDOUS TRIO|
1. Jayne Appel
Headed to Stanford University
Comment: Showed the diversity in her offensive game by scoring two layups, then hitting an elbow jumper during a 6-0 spurt for the West, then later ripping a rebound and going coast to coast and drawing a foul on the shot. Lost in the offensive pyrotechnics was her neutralizing defense against Tina Charles and shot-altering presence in the lane.
2. Amanda Thompson
Whitney Young High School
Headed to Oklahoma University
Comment: Thompson certainly has the arsenal to take over a game with her scoring, but chose to set a tone in this game with her passing and defense. She led the West with nine rebounds, four assists and five blocks to go with 11 points and two steals. Most of all, she was an initiator with her penetration to make plays on offense and athleticism at the defensive end.
3. Dymond Simon
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.
|EAST'S TREMENDOUS TRIO|
1. Monica Wright
Forest Park High School
Headed to University of Virginia
Comment: Wright was one of the few on the East with the type of speed to play the West's game. She once outsprinted everyone on the floor, flew to a corner, got the pass and hit a three. Besides her 13 points, she also had eight steals, the most spectacular being a clean pick of Dymond Simon at mid-court that led to a breakaway layup.
2. Tina Charles
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.
3. Kaili McLaren
Good Counsel High School
Headed to University of Connecticut
Comment: The most interesting number in her line is not the two three-pointers she hit, but the scant 11 minutes she played. McLaren started the game on fire, but was allowed to cool off for long stretches on the bench. We're sure UConn will find a use for a 6-3, 235-pounder who can toss up beautiful rainbows from behind the arc and provide leadership from within the player ranks, even if the East coaching staff could not.