- Chris Hansen, ESPNHS HoopGurlz
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ROCKVILLE, Md. -- The inaugural ESPN RISE National High School Invitational ended on a high note with a fantastic comeback win for Seton Keough over favored Riverdale Baptist, ranked No. 25 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50. The Gators' 44-42 nationally televised victory required a comeback from a deficit as large as 13 points in the second half.
Asya Bussie, ranked No. 47 in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred, battled through foul trouble but her presence in the fourth quarter made all the difference, giving her team the confidence to complete the unlikely. The performance didn't earn her All Tournament honors, but there were plenty of solid performances in this weekend's tournament of note.
Tournament MVP Amber Singletary is just a sophomore, but she gave a senior-level performance for Seton Keough. She put on a five-point spurt in the fourth quarter, a clutch 3-pointer followed by a transition layup, to push the momentum meter full-bore toward the Gators. She has springs for legs and as a 5-foot-9 guard she skies for her fair share of rebounds. She scored a team-high 13 points, grabbed four rebounds, dealt out three assists, and had two steals and a blocked shot. She is key for her team because she has the ability to create offense, even against quick defenders. She scored in double figures both games and if she can take her spirited play with her to the exposure season, she should be getting plenty of recruiting buzz.
Bussie didn't have her best game in the championship game, but it's evident she is the team's rock. She picked up three fouls in the first half and her fourth early in the third period, but managed to play the fourth without fouling out. Despite the foul trouble, she did a fantastic job of challenging the interior shots of the much bigger Riverdale Baptist squad when the shots counted most.
Katelyn Fischer played all 32 minutes of the championship game and all but one minute of the semifinal game. She scored 23 points in the two games, but more than the point total was the timing of her shots. She made shots in big moments of both games. She was the team's point guard, handling the ball pressure of both Oak Hill Academy and Riverdale Baptist. Usually three turnovers isn't considered a great game, but given the pressure she was facing and the fact the team left the ballhandling duties to her solely, it was a fantastic effort. She is drawing interest from Division III schools and is a perfect match for that level.
Sophomore Liz Brown's minutes spiked in the championship game with Bussie limited to just 20 minutes. The 6-4 post finished with 10 points, five blocks and four rebounds. She needs to add strength as she gets bumped around in the lane, but her length was a factor in defending the interior players in both of Seton Keough's wins. She battled throughout and helped energize her team.
After the championship game, Riverdale Baptist's Rahneeka Saunders was unable to talk to reporters. She was hoarse, which is understandable for the team's point guard and leader. She's not always the team's leading scorer and she does a terrific job of distributing the ball and, most of all, defending. The George Mason signee will bring a strong presence to the floor at the next level and is the type of point guard who can make the big play with a shot or pass. In the semifinals it was her defensive ability that spurred her team to the comeback win over St. Frances.
Maryland-bound post Tianna Hawkins can fill a box score and her 12-point, 16-rebound performance in the finale is proof of that. The 6-3 post is a consistent rebounder who uses her body well to hold position and her reach to go get the basketball. Her midrange game was more prominent this weekend than her scoring around the paint, as the team deferred to her twin sister, Tierra, on the block.
Tierra Hawkins was a scoring machine in both games, scoring 18 points in the semis and 16 in the finals. She has very smooth pivot moves and great touch around the basket. The 6-1 junior forward needs to develop as a passer, especially in high-low situations to complement her scoring ability. She is a solid rebounder, averaging 7.5 boards per game, even with her sister cleaning up a majority of missed shots.
Riverdale Baptist guard Candace Bond made the All Tournament team despite not scoring a single point in the championship game. The Hofstra-bound senior is a terrific defender who gets low and wide and moves her feet well. She scored eight points in the semifinal but she is a triple-threat player who can attack and create off the bounce, shooting or with the pass. Her balanced game will translate well at the next level.
St. Frances guard Tasia Bristow played at a high level in Saturday's semifinal loss to Riverdale Baptist. She was a big reason the Lady Panthers took a 13-point lead into the half. She is quick off the bounce and can collapse defenses, but can also stroke the 3-point shot as well. She finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a blocked shot. If the rising 5-6 junior guard can take this performance into the summer, she'll be on a lot of schools' radars.
What Shatyra Hawkes lacks in size she makes up for in swagger. The senior is listed at 5-3, but she is a fierce competitor. She has quick feet allowing her to play tight defense. She also elevates well on her jump shot. She is good out to the 3-point line, and that jumping ability allows her to shoot over defenders who are late closing out.
All Tournament Team
Amber Singletary, sophomore, Seton Keough (MVP)
Katelyn Fischer, senior, Seton Keough
Candace Bond, senior, Riverdale Baptist
Tianna Hawkins, senior, Riverdale Baptist
Tierra Hawkins, junior, Riverdale Baptist
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Chris Hansen is the National Director of Prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.