Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) literally is down to a snowball's chance of winning a high-school girls' basketball national championship. After weather wiped out a sizable chunk of their early schedule, the Scarlet Fliers are the country's No. 4 team, but have played only six games, all victories.
They've got one of the best backcourts in the nation with seniors Shakena Richardson (Rutgers, No. 16 in ESPNU HoopGurlz 100) and Syessence Davis (Rutgers, No. 51), plus a top post Chyna Golden (Pitt, No. 97). But the Scarlet Fliers could be the mystery team in the Powerade Fab 50 because of their low game count.
That's about to change as Neptune enters the meat of its schedule with No. 25 Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) on Sunday. Then it's No. 47 Shabazz (Newark, N.J.) and regional power Trenton Catholic (Trenton, N.J.) with the No. 6 senior in the country, Briyona Canty, who will join Richardson and Davis at Rutgers next season.
"All three of the teams will be a tough test for us," Neptune coach John Brown said. "Christ the King is a national team that plays all over the country and has great success with their program and has developed some of the finest women's basketball players in the world. Shabazz is a New Jersey power which has been the top dogs in the state for the last decade. They have a great program. Trenton Catholic has become a state power in the last few years and has improved each year. They all have excellent players and great coaches. I mean, we will have our hands full. We just have to work every day and get better."
Snowed in during the Christmas break, Neptune not only was unable to play, it also was unable to practice. "It is like starting from scratch again," Brown said. And also hanging over their heads is the Scarlet Fliers' recent history. A loss to Murry Bergtraum (New York, N.Y.) about this time last year cost them an unbeaten season.
"We have to remember that feeling," Brown said of the loss.
If Neptune can negotiate through this stretch and hold firm through the state playoffs, culminating in a tournament of champions, it will be in a position to capitalize if the top three schools -- No. 1 Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.), No. 2 Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) and No. 3 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) -- knock each other off in the CIF Southern Sectionals or California state tournament.
-- Glenn Nelson & Kara Howe
Coach Vanessa Watson of No. 47 Shabazz (Newark, N.J.) earned her 600th win in her team's 55-46 victory over Trenton Catholic (Trenton, N.J). In 28 seasons at the Newark school, Watson has built an impressive 600-105 record topped off by four NJSIAA Tournament of Champions titles and seven state championships. ... Jordan Adams of No. 3 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) came one point, one rebound, and one assist away from notching a triple-double as the Monarchs defeated Santa Monica (Santa Monica, Calif.). Adams recorded 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists on the night. ... Danielle Warner of Bridgeport High School in Michigan had a double-double, recording 17 points and 14 rebounds in addition to three blocks and two steals to lead the Bearcats to a victory over Caro (Caro, Mich). ... Diamond DeShields is back in action after a brief stint on the sidelines where she spent time nursing an injured hand. The sensational sophomore at No. 17 Norcross (Norcross, Ga.) is expected to be back to prime form before the week's end. ... Freshman phenom, Whitney Jennings of Logansport (Logansport, Ind.), posted 26 points, 11 steals and seven assists in the Berries' 77-44 win over Winamac (Winamac, Ind.). The 5-foot-5 point guard shot 10 of 18 from the floor and 6 of 6 from the foul line. She entered the game averaging 21.1 points and 5.6 assists per game. ... No. 6 Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) put on a shellacking as they posted a 101-25 victory over IMG Academies (Bradenton, Fla.). It's the first time the Lions have breached the century mark this year.
Maureen Craig hit a school-record eight 3-pointers and scored 28 points to lead Niles (Niles, Mich.) to a 59-22 victory over Dowagiac (Dowagiac, Mich.) Tuesday. ... The Springville (Springville, Utah) Red Devils got a huge performance from Lexi Eaton with 27 points as Springville knocked off Herriman (Herriman, Utah). Eaton leads the state in scoring, averaging 29 points. ... Tanner Marcum scored 22 points, including the game-winning, 12-footer in the lane with eight seconds remaining, to lift New Albany (New Albany, Ind.) over rival Floyd Central (Floyd Knobs, Ind.). ... Forward Kelsey Watroba, a junior at Nordonia High School (Macedonia, Ohio), sank a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left in the second overtime period to seal the win for the Knights against Roosevelt (Kent, Ohio). ... Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) put the beat down on Fountain Valley (Fountain Valley, Calif.) 103-28. Karlie Samuelson scored 29 points, on 11 of 13 from the field including seven threes, six rebounds, four steals and four assists. ... McKenna Erkfritz scored 20 poins and grabbed 22 rebounds as Manchester (Manchester, Mich.) beat Hanover-Horton (Mich). ... South Central guard Tayler Tackett puts it in the basket better than anyone in north central Ohio. The junior is averaging 28.3 points and has already had a 40-point game this year. She's 60 points from breaking 1,000 for her career, which means she's likely to reach the milestone in the next week. ... With Edgewater (Orland, Fla.) missing junior star Alexis Prince due to injury, sophomore Trimaine McCullough has stepped up admirably. McCullough tallied 85 points in four games at the Naples Daily News Holiday Shootout. In the team's last two games, wins over Cypress Creek (Orlando, Fla.) and East River (Orlando, Fla.) bringing the team to 15-2, she scored a combined 25 points while teammate Christina Potts, a freshman, led the way with 50 points.
-- Kara Howe and Rebecca Gray
During a week when the top 19 teams in the Powerade Fab 50 held their spots and only two teams left the rankings, North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.) probably made the biggest waves by knocking off then-No. 22 Memphis Central (Memphis, Tenn.) 61-49. It was the first game this season on the Charging Wildcats' home floor. North Little Rock, led by the combined 33 points from Jerica James (Mississippi State signee) and junior post Lexus Williams, won its 45th straight, a streak that includes last year's 31-0, Arkansas Class 7A championship finish. The win over Memphis Central catapulted the Charging Wildcats to No. 20 in the country. The pace definitely will pick up next week as the Martin Luther King holiday weekend is jammed with marquee matchups, headlined by No. 4 Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) vs. No. 25 Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), No. 6 Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) vs. No. 26 Memphis Central, No. 16 Buford (Buford, Ga.) vs. No. 44 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), and No. 19 Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.) vs. No. 45 Overton (Memphis, Tenn.).
Records are through Jan, 11, 2011 games, where reported.
Additions: 43. Midwest City (Midwest City, Okla.) 10-0, 50. Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.) 14-0.
Subtractions: Mt. Lebanon (Pittsburgh, Pa.) 4-5 (44), St. Joseph's Academy (St. Louis, Mo.) 11-2 (43).
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ESPN HOOPGURLZ HS RANKINGS PANEL
Lisa Bodine is a national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. A native of Queens, N.Y., she began her coaching career in 1993 with the NY Gazelles, has coached with D.C.-based Team Unique, and in 2009 she was named DAC Co-Coach of the Year after leading Wakefield Country Day School in Flint Hill, Va., to its first-ever conference title. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Rebecca Gray is an intern for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously wrote a column for the website about her experiences as a freshman on basketball scholarship at the University of North Carolina. She transferred to and played at Kentucky and now plays basketball and golf at Union College. A 5-foot-10, sharp-shooting guard out of Georgetown, Ky., Gray was named Miss Basketball in the state of Kentucky after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 4.8 assists during her senior season at Scott County High School. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.
Kara (Harrison) Howe is the director of operations for ESPN HoopGurlz and oversees high-school rankings. She founded and coached in the Utah Sky club program, which sent several players, including sister Michelle, a recent Stanford, graduate to Division I schools. She played college basketball at Utah Valley State, was an all-state performer at Alta High School in Sandy, Utah, and coached high school in the Salt Lake area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Lewis is the national recruiting coordinator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the Parade All-American Selection Committee, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.