- Mindi Rice
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- If the pool play at the AAU's Junior Showcase was a display of the unpredictability of early summer ball, Tuesday's kickoff of bracket play in the Jostens Center at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex gave a preview of the tough matchups on the horizon this July.
While teams such as the Georgia Metros and Tennessee Flight Silver -- both expected to be among the top teams by the end of the summer -- were bounced in the first round, the Philadelphia Belles and New York Gauchos advanced by a nose.
"I've never seen defense like that this whole tournament," Belles' guard Maggie Lucas said of the Metros. "They were great defensively."
After spending much of the game trailing the speedier Metros, Philadelphia took the lead on a Katie Rulan 3-pointer in the final two minutes. As things got desperate for Georgia, the Belles went 5-of-7 from the line in the final minute to hold on for the 67-63 win.
"We just gritted it out," Lucas said. "We showed a lot of composure down to the end and everyone stepped in and knocked it down."
The Belles face Team Breakdown in one Gold Bracket semifinal after the Miami squad gutted out an 85-78 win against the Tennessee Flight. With college coaches two-deep on both baselines, the eight girls on the Breakdown squad used their impressive speed and a 26-point effort from guard Aerial Wilson to edge the Flight.
"It's very competitive," Wilson said. "And when it's competitive, I think a lot more players step up."
On the other half of the bracket, it came with little surprise the one team that continued its dominance was the Boo Williams Summer League squad, with a 56-37 win against the South Florida Lady Jaguars. Despite scoring less than 80 points for just the second time in six games, the Boo Williams team is on a roll to its next stop -- a Gold Bracket semifinal with the Gauchos. New York advanced by a single point with a 42-41 win against the FBVA Orlando Comets Red squad. In the final minute, 5-foot-5 guard Regina Trimboli from Norwalk, Conn., hit two 3-pointers from the right corner to give the Gauchos the win and send a strong Orlando team home to prepare for its next tournament.
"It's good to have good competition," Trimboli said. "And in a game like this, your adrenaline's just pumping."
Both gold bracket semifinals are at noon with the championship and third-place games at 4:30 p.m. In the silver and bronze brackets, semifinals are at 10:30 a.m. with placing games at 3 p.m.
Essence 2009's Erica Wheeler, ranked 32nd in the ESPN HoopGurlz 100, scored 39 points Tuesday in a 95-80 win against Tennessee Flight Navy. Wheeler, who went 21-of-24 from the line, scored 22 of her points in the second half... Aarika Judge scored 18 points on six three-point shots in the GA/LINA 76ers' 84-65 win against the Lakeside Lady Scholars... North Carolina's Garner Flames squad chose to leave the event early rather than play in the Silver Bracket, giving the Alabama Twisters a pass into the semifinals... In the bronze bracket, both the Alabama Lasers and Ontario's Windsor Valiants earned a spot in the semifinals with draws against the tournament's two no-show teams. The New York Gauchos Black squad advanced to the semifinals, as the FGB White team left the tournament for a skills camp the Orlando-based team hosted... The AAU is giving college coaches their packets for free this summer at all AAU Certified events.
Tuesday's Top Performances
Erica Wheeler, Essence 2009, 39 points vs. Tennessee Flight Navy
Alyssa Strickland, GA/LINA 76ers, 26 points vs. Lakeside Lady Scholars
Aerial Wilson, Team Breakdown, 26 points vs. Tennessee Flight Silver
Briana Brown, New York Gauchos Black, 25 points vs. Garner Flames
Bianca Lutley, Team Breakdown, 25 points vs. GA/LINA 76ers
Alex Bentley, The Family, 24 points vs. Tennessee Flight Navy
Ceny Phelps, Tennessee Flight Navy, 24 points vs. The Family
Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and barista at Starbucks. She grew up in Seattle where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. Mindi can be reached at email@example.com.
Day 2 of pool play at the AAU Junior Showcase was unpredictable and entertaining , writes Mindi Rice.