Though it was only about 5:30 Phoenix time, it had to be midnight somewhere – because the
Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.)
carriage ride to the finals of the Nike TOC had just come to an abrupt end.
The fairy-tale killer was St. Mary's (Phoenix)
, which made 10 of 27 3-pointers to get the Northstars out of their 2-3 zone, and thus pulled megastar Breanna Stewart
(UConn-bound, of course) away from the basket. She was therefore "held" to only four blocked shots (to go along with 33 points and 14 rebounds) and the Knights came away with a 63-55 win that sets them up for a storybook title game today.
St. Mary's came into the TOC No. 2 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Girls Basketball Rankings presented by the Army National Guard
, and it's only fitting that the Knights' opponent in the finals will be No. 1 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.)
, which outmuscled Windward (Los Angeles)
, 70-61, behind Jonquel Jones'
But neither St. Mary's nor Riverdale Baptist are as star-driven as Cicero-North, which relies almost totally on the spectacular Stewart (her tip-in off a miss, with her hand basket-high, was the play of the day) – and that leads to an interesting question: Should Stewart be considered for Most Valuable Player, even though the best her team can finish is third?
Traditionally, of course, the MVP comes from the winning team, in part because it makes it a lot easier for tournament directors to avoid hurting anyone's feelings. But in this case, Stewart is so clearly the best player at the event – and so clearly the best high school player in the country – that not giving it to her simply makes no sense.
And even if Jones has another great game, and Riverdale Baptist wins, most observers would agree that she's only the second-best Jones at the TOC. Alexis Jones
, of MacArthur (Irving, Texas)
, would be the top player in a normal year, and even though Jonquel Jones is very, very good, and would be the best player in almost every region of the country, this is the Nike TOC, and things are different here.
* * * * *
Speaking of different, Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.)
is back, as always, but for the first time at the TOC, Jeff Sink was not the coach. He slid over to the boys' side (some would say the dark side), but the Ladycats haven't suffered a dropoff in sideline intensity. New coach Kim Cram is a slender rod of fiery emotion, which was on full display in a 67-50 loss to La Jolla Country Day, another Southern California school, in the semifinals of the John Anderson Division.La Jolla Country Day (Calif.)
, alma mater of Candice Wiggins, has another high-scoring guard in junior Kelsey Plum
, who will enjoy this year's TOC a lot more than last year's, regardless of how the Torreys do against Holy Cross of Maryland in the finals. This year, at least so far, Plum has not spent any time spitting her teeth on the floor, which happened on the second day last year. It put her out of commission, and in the dentist's chair, in 2010.
* * * * *
Some Long Beach Poly fans were almost out of commission in the City of Gilbert jail after a tense incident in Poly's win over Villa Maria of Pennsylvania. The fans were upset at what they felt was a bad foul committed by one of the Villa Maria girls, and when coach Douglas Chuzie responded in kind, people came out of the stands, bumping occurred and the police wound up involved.
Luckily cooler heads prevailed, but neither the Poly supporters nor Chuzie came out of the situation looking very good.