It will be remembered as a landmark season nationally for girls basketball.
Most memorable may likely be the mammoth showdown in Indianapolis where close to 14,000 fans gathered at Lucas Oil Stadium to see the nation’s No. 2 team Ben Davis (Indianapolis) defeat No. 3 Washington (South Bend) 71-69 for the Indiana 4A state crown.
Fittingly it came down to a buzzer beat, a 15-foot jumper by Davis sophomore Bria Goss.
“Unforgettable,” said Davis coach Stan Benge, who's seen a lot of girls basketball in the last 24 seasons. “The crowd, the game, the shot. It was all fantastic.”
A couple weeks later in California, the nation’s No. 1 team most of the season Mater Dei (Santa Ana) had its perfect season shot down by then No. 4 Brea Olinda 44-38 in the South Region title game. The game was so emotional, Brea Olinda coach Jeff Sink actually had to worry about a letdown in the state title game.
No worries coach. Brea Olinda breezed past a very good Carondelet (Concord) team 68-45 to finish No. 3 nationally behind the two Indiana schools.
Our MaxPreps/National Guard computer-generated rankings actually had Brea Olinda No. 1.
“Since there’s no national tournament there’s no way to really know,” Sink said. “But this just shows there were a lot of great teams.”
Many of them were in Texas – especially in the Houston region – with at least six fighting it out for Xcellent 25 spots.
Texas, known for its size, fittingly boasted many of the best post players in the country, an unusual amount of big, physical girls epitomized by 6-foot-8 Britney Griner, who is expected to revolutionize the women’s game.
Throw in Indiana’s Skylar Diggins (Washington), who was named MVP of two national All-Star Games, and Tayler Hill, Minneapolis’ career scoring leader for boys or girls, and we’re talking two more great present and future ambassadors for the sport.
Those terrific games and storylines highlighted the season, but here is a list of the best and brightest individuals from 2008-09.
Player of the Year.
G Skylar Diggins (Washington, South Bend, Ind.) 5-9, Sr.
If Diggins’ remarkable four-year career or senior season didn’t put her over the top, then how about being named MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and the WBCA All-American games in the same week? The all-around standout who was offered full-ride scholarships before she even entered high school averaged 29.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 5.4 steals per game leading her second-ranked Panthers to a 26-1 season and fourth straight state-title game appearance. She made 55 percent of her shots (263 of 474), 41 percent on 3-pointers (56 of 138) and 79 percent on free throws (172 of 218). She finished third in state history with 2,790 points behind only Stephanie White (2,869) and WNBA standout Shanna Zolman Crossley (3,085). More impressively, her teams went 102-7 during her career. “If she had one selfish bone in her body, she would have obliterated the state record,” said Scott Davidson, a 21-year journalist in Indiana, the last 12 as a staff writer at the South Bend Tribune. “She could honestly score 40 or 45 a night. But that’s not what Skylar is about.” By all accounts, beyond her play, Diggins is and will be a great ambassador for the game. “Frankly, she’s a once in a lifetime player as far as I’m concerned,” Davidson said. “In all sincerity, I’ve felt spoiled covering her the last four years.” College: Notre Dame.
Coach of the Year
Stan Benge (Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis).
In his 24th season, Benge led the Giants to their third 4A state title and first mythical national crown with a record-setting 30-0 season. No other team in state history had won 30 games and gone undefeated in Indiana history. Though extremely talented – with up to five Division I players – Benge got Ben Davis to play cohesively and unselfish. Penn State-bound 5-foot-6 guard Alex Bentley led the team in scoring (15.7) but sophomore Bria Goss (11.3), DeAirra Goss (8.8) and Dorothy Williams (7.8) regularly scored in double figures. The team’s strength was in depth and defense, allowing just 36.3 points per game. Said Benge, who has won 468 games in his career: “Like one college coach said to me, very seldom see you a teams as talented as ours work as hard as they do.” Benge had a lot to do with that.
Varsity Center - 3/4
See Griner dunk in a game.
C Brittney Griner (Nimitz, Houston, Texas) 6-8, Sr.
She began the season with a bang, recording a national-record 25 blocks in a 69-18 win over Alief Hastings. The YouTube sensation finished off the season in style by going for 20 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks leading the Blue to a 79-77 win over the White in the WBCA All-Star game Saturday in St. Louis. In between, Griner was remarkable consistent and dominant, averaging 27.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 7.7 blocks per game leading Nimitz (37-2) into its first state-title game. With her size, long reach and athleticism, many feel Griner will change the scope of women’s basketball. College: Baylor.
F/G Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (Williams HS, Alexandria, Va.) 6-0, Sr.
The McDonald’s All-American Co-Most Valuable Player has been one of the most dominating players in high school basketball the last four years. She averaged 21.0 points, 15.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game, according to her coach Jim Lewis, leading the Titans to a 26-6 record. Beyond her offensive skills, what separates Ruffin-Pratt is her rugged defensive presence. College: North Carolina.
F/G Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-0, So.
Perhaps the most improved player in the country, Mosqueda-Lewis was one of the main reasons Mater Dei went from a California afterthought to a national power in one season, earning the No. 4 ranking in the MaxPreps final national Xcellent 25. Mosqueda-Lewis averaged 22.5 points and 12 rebounds per game.
G Skylar Diggins
G Tayler Hill (Minneapolis South, Minneapolis, Minn.), 5-10, Sr.
“Lady LeBron” finished off a remarkable five-year varsity career – she was first-team All-Metro as an eighth-grader — in style by winning her first state title with a career performance in a 68-61 win over Centennial. Hill scored a career high 47 points. She finished sixth in the country with a 31.9 scoring average along with 7.6 rebounds and 5.7 steals per game. The Tigers finished 31-2 on the season. College: undecided.
C Kelsey Bone (Dulles HS, Sugarland, Texas), 6-5, Sr.
The McDonald’s National Player of the Year averaged 20.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game leading Dulles to a 36-3 record and No. 20 ranking in the final Xcellent 25. A rugged force around the bucket with outstanding footwork and moves. College: South Carolina.
F Joslyn Tinkle (Big Sky HS, Missoula, Mont.) 6-3, Sr.
A versatile offensive player with a good shooting touch and footwork, Tinkle is also a big time shot blocker as she showed in the McDonald’s All-American game with five blocks. She averaged 21.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game. College: Stanford.
F Markel Walker (Schenley HS, Pittsburgh, Pa.) 6-2, Sr.
A big-time scorer at 26.0 points per game to go along with 9.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists, Walker’s specialty may be at the defensive end. The McDonald’s All-American led her team to a 21-6 record. College: UCLA.
G Chelsea Gray (St. Mary’s HS, Stockton, Calif.) 5-11, Jr.
Grew five inches from her sophomore to junior year and with it her game did also. She led the Rams (31-3) to a state Div. III title and No. 6 national Xcellent 25 ranking by averaging 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game. See story.
G Layshia Clarendon (Cajon HS, San Bernardino, Calif.) 5-8, Sr.
Did it all for the Cowboys (32-3), ranked No. 14 nationally in the final Xcellent 25. She averaged 20.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 3.2 steals per game for Cajon, which lost to No. 3 Brea Olinda and No. 4 Mater Dei and also had a win over Brea Olinda. College: Cal.
C Stephanie Holzer (Cardinal O’Hara HS, Springfield, Pa.) 6-4, Sr.
A complete player, the McDonald’s All-American averaged 19.3 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game for the 27-3 Lions, who lost in the state finals largely because Holzer broke her foot. College: Vanderbilt.
F Destiny Williams (Benton Harbor, Mich.) 6-3, Sr.
The athletic McDonald’s All-American averaged 25.0 points, 14.9 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game for the Tigers who finished 24-2 and No. 3 in the MaxPreps/National Guard computer-generated state rankings. College: Illinois.
Alief Elsik vs Cy-Fair - TX (Damien Pichon)
Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike in action
F Chiney Ogwumike (Cy-Fair, Cypress, Texas) 6-2, Jr.
The little sister of last year’s National Player of the Year Nneka, who helped Stanford to the Final Four, Chiney more than represented her family. She averaged 21.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.4 blocks per game for the defending state 5A champion Bobcats (35-4), who made it all the way back to the semifinals. College: undecided.
G Taber Spani (Metro Academy HS, Olathe, Kan.) 6-1, Sr.
The McDonald’s All-American had another dominating season by averaging 32.0 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. She shared team-high honors with 11 points leading the West to a 69-68 victory. College: Tennessee.
G/F Kelly Faris (Heritage Christian HS, Indianapolis, Ind.) 5-11, Sr.
Did it all for the Eagles, who won their fourth straight state title. The McDonald’s All-American averaged 12.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game as Heritage Christian finished 26-1. College: Connecticut.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (ALPHABETICAL)
G Alex Bentley (Ben Davis HS, Indianapolis, Ind.) 5-7, Sr.
Led the mythical national champions with a 15.7 scoring average, tremendous defense and leadership. College: Penn State.
F Gennifer Brandon (Chatsworth HS, Calif.) 6-3, Sr.
The McDonald’s All-American averaged 21.2 points, 17. rebounds and 4.0 steals per game for the Los Angeles City Champions, which finished 24-9. College: Cal.
G China Crosby (Manhattan Center HS, New York, N.Y.) 5-5, Sr.
One of the quickest guards in the country, Crosby averaged 18.0 points, 4.0 steals and 5.0 assists per game. She won the skills championship at the McDonald’s All-American game. College: Virginia.
F Christina Marinacci (Foothill HS, Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-2, Sr.
A tremendous all-around and unselfish player, Marinacci averaged 18.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the 30-2 Knights. She shared team-high honors with 11 points leading the West to a 69-68 victory in the 32nd annual McDonalds All-American game. College: USC.
G Shafontaye Myers (Sunshine HS, Newbern, Ala.) 5-8, Jr.
Myers finished seventh in the country in scoring at 31.1 points per game. She shot a lot but she shot efficiently, making 63 percent of her shots (71 percent on 2s). She also averaged 11.1 rebounds and 7.6 steals per game for the Tigers (23-5).
C Cokie Reed (Midway HS, Waco, Texas) 6-4, 200
The McDonald’s All-American averaged 14.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game and led the Panthers to a state title at 35-4. College: Texas.
G Tashauna Rodgers (King’s Fork HS, Suffolk, Va.) 5-11, Sr.
A flat-out shooter and scorer, Rodgers averaged a whopping 29.0 points a game while adding 10.2 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game. Rodgers came off the bench to score 10 points for the East in the McDonald’s All-American game. College: Georgetown.
F Tierra Rogers (Sacred Heart Cathedral, San Francisco, Calif.) 5-11 Sr.
The slashing and athletic senior averaged 15 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game for the Irish (28-2), which had their string of three straight state titles, thwarted in the NorCal finals by St. Mary’s. College: Cal.
G Odyssey Sims (MacArthur, Irving, Texas) 5-8, Jr.
The immensely talented junior did it all for the Cardinals, who finished 35-4. Simms averaged 18.3 points per game. College: undecided.
F DeNesha Stallworth (Pinole Valley HS, Pinole, Calif.) 6-3, Sr.
The McDonald’s All-American finished 15th in the country by averaging 27.7 points per game to go along with 12.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. She shared team-high honors with 11 points leading the West to a 69-68 victory. College: Cal.
G Courtney Strain (Woodland, Ala.) 5-9, Jr.
Led the nation with a 34.8 scoring average to go along with 9.4 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 4.1 assists for the Bobcats, who finished 30-2.
F Morgan Stroman (Lower Richland HS, Hopkins, S.C.) 6-2 Sr.
The McDonald’s All-American is strong, energetic and agile. She averaged 15.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game. College: Miami.
G Dara Taylor (Caravel Academy, Bear, Del.) 5-7, Sr.
A terrific heady player who averaged 18.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. She earned a spot on the McDonald’s All-American team. College: Maryland.
G Chloe Wells (Apex HS, N.C.) 5-7, Jr.
After starring two years in California at A.B. Miller in Fontana, Wells didn’t have much trouble adjustment to life in North Carolina, averaging better than 20 points per game for the 24-0 Lady Cougars. Wells was named Tri-Eight Player of the Year and she had 26 points in a 67-47 win over Green Hope for the title. College: undecided.
G Erica Wheeler (Parkway Academy HS, Miramar, Fla.) 5-8, Sr.
The versatile standout averaged 21.5 points, 6.0 steals and 5.0 assists per game and was selected to the McDonald’s All-American team. College: Rutgers.
F Madison Williams (Detroit Country Day, Beverly Hills, Mich.) 6-6, Jr.
She did it all for the Yellowjackets, who are 54-2 over the last two seasons. Williams had a triple-double (11 points, 11 rebounds, 11 blocks) as Country Day won its second straight B state title with a 50-40 win over Central Catholic in the title game. College: undecided.
G Mariah Williams (Regis Jesuit, Aurora, Colo.) 5-4, Sr.
The dynamic point guard and fourth-year starter led the Raiders to their first-ever 5A state championship after reaching the Final 4 the previous four seasons. Williams can break down any defense, is perhaps the quickest player in the country and she’s a terrific leader. She averaged 11.8 points, 6.4 assists and 2.3 steals a game for an extremely balanced team that had seven Division I players. College: UCLA.