Cupid is long gone, so it's perfectly fine to focus on revenge. And what better time for just that than in the playoffs?
Norcross (Norcross, Ga.) enjoyed sweet retribution this past weekend by swatting away its cross-county rival, North Gwinnett (Suwannee, Ga.), with a convincing 59-44 win in the district playoffs. North Gwinnett claimed two of just three losses for Norcross on the season.
"I didn't feel like it was revenge at all," said Diamond DeShields, a sophomore standout for Norcross. "I feel like that's how we should have been playing all along. It was the moment in our season where our team all clicked together."
California is deep into the sectional playoffs, and the seemingly imminent collision of the top three teams in the country -- No. 1 Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.), No. 2 Polytechnic (Long Beach, Calif.), and No. 3 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) -- looms in the California CIF Southern Section playoffs.
The first date to circle is March 1, the potential rematch of Poly and Mater Dei, a game those in the Los Angeles area will go bonkers over if it's even half as exciting as Poly's 61-56 win in the Nike Tournament of Champions semifinal in December. The game provided the Monarchs their only loss of the season.
The expectation is that the winner would get a shot at Brea Olinda and a chance to stake claim to the mythical national championship.
But hold the presses. Both Poly (25-2) and Mater Dei (26-1) have dangerous teams waiting for them in the Southern Section quarterfinals. On Feb. 23, Poly draws Santa Monica (Santa Monica, Calif., 21-8), a team that has been among the best in the state and mysteriously off the mark in the same season. The two teams met in January, a 65-48 Poly win behind a huge 19-6 third quarter for the Jackrabbits.
Mater Dei has an equally perplexing opponent before a potential revenge game, a date with Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif., 24-3). The Eagles have two narrow losses to good teams, Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Cajon (San Bernardino, Calif.), and a third loss, to Rancho Cucamonga (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), with several players sitting out with injuries and illnesses, including leading scorer and Arizona State signee Jada Blackwell.
Texas is inching toward the state semifinals in Austin. This week the state's four regions will crown champions in all classifications and the teams will pack for the Erwin Center at the University of Texas.
Region 2 has a fantastic lineup in the quarterfinal round, perhaps none expected to be closer than DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas) and Skyline (Dallas, Texas). Both teams are ranked regionally and advancing to the state finals, even if it results in losing to heavy favorite Cy-Falls (Houston, Texas), could mean a spot in the FAB 50. Of course Pflugerville (Pflugerville, Texas) and Georgetown (Georgetown, Texas) are just a few of the teams that are looking to traverse the same path in Region 2.
In Illinois, the anticipated matchup of No. 4 Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, Ill.) and No. 12 Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.) won't take place in the state championship game. The IHSA changed the district pairings this season, after three consecutive years of the Raiders and Dolphins battling in the final game of the season. If both teams take care of business, the two would square off in the semifinal round.
South Carolina is now in the state quarterfinal round for Class 4A. A semifinal matchup between regionally ranked Dutch Fork (Irmo, S.C.) and No. 15 Spring Valley (Spring Valley, S.C.) is projected and could allow the 23-2 Silver Foxes to exact their only losses on the season, both to Spring Valley. Likely waiting on the other side of the bracket for the winner and the last obstacle in securing a state title is No. 24 Goose Creek (Goose Creek, S.C.).
It's that time of year to cash in on the opportunities that arrive. For Norcross, the defending Georgia state champions, winning the Region crown, a feat that has escaped them the past two seasons, it is a sign that a young team is peaking at the right time.
"My team," DeShields said, "we thank (North Gwinnett) for exposing all of our flaws."
Whether or not you believe it's better to lose early than to pursue perfection, this is a key time for teams to define their seasons.
-- Chris Hansen
Duncanville (Arlington, Texas) 6-foot-2 post Bunny Williams, a Kansas signee, had an impressive double-double last Monday in a win against Euless Trinity (Euless, Texas). Williams finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds as she led her team to a Class 5A first-round regional win. ... Shereesha Richards of Atlantic Christian (Egg Harbor Township, N.J) recorded a triple-double in the team's win over Baptist Regional (Haddon Heights, N.J) last week in a Tri-State Christian Athletic Conference game. Richards led Atlantic Christian with 24 points, 11 rebounds and 10 steals. ... Sophomore forward Chamaya Turner of New Braunfels Canyon (New Braunfels, Texas) had a quadruple-double in a convincing win over Alamo Heights (San Antonio, Texas) last week. Turner poured in 12 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and 11 steals. ... On senior night at Potter House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) on Feb. 19, Pitt-bound senior Loliya Briggs registered a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in a 104-52 win over Faith Baptist Christian (Brandon, Fla.). Junior guard Antoinette Bannister, a North Carolina commit, led all scorers with 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting from the field. ... The country's highest ranked undecided senior, Betnijah Laney of Smyrna (Smyrna, Del.) joined an elite group in the state of Delaware. The 6-0 wing eclipsed 2,000 career points last week during a 31-point performance against Sussex Central (Georgetown, Del.). She followed it up with 22 points against Caesar Rodney (Camden, Del.). Laney is averaging a double-double this season with 22.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
The 20th annual WBCA All-America Game selections have been released. In all, 20 student-athletes were selected to participate in the April, 2, 2011 game: Cierra Burdick (Matthews, N.C.), Briyona Canty (Willingboro, N.J.), Ariya Crook-Williams (Los Angeles, Calif.), Krystal Forthan (Georgetown, Texas), Bria Goss (Indianapolis, Ind.), Taylor Greenfield (Huxley, Iowa), Justine Hartman (Fullerton, Calif.), Amber Henson (Odessa, Fla.), Morgan Jones (Altamonte Springs, Fla.), Betnijah Laney (Clayton, Del.), Samantha Logic (Racine, Wis.), Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook, Ill.), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Anaheim, Calif.), Eliza Normen (Louisville, Colo.), Amber Orrange (Missouri City, Texas), Shakena Richardson (Neptune, N.J.), Bria Smith (Massapequa, N.Y.), Kiah Stokes (Marion, Iowa), Alexyz Vaioletama (Fountain Valley, Calif.) and Elizabeth Williams (Virginia Beach, Va.).
-- Rebecca Gray and Chris Hansen
The news this week revolves around two top 10 teams falling in the playoffs. Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) fell to Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) 40-37 in the regional playoffs. The Warriors are still in the hunt for a state championship because of their high seeding. Now 28-1, Riverdale falls to 14th in the POWERADE FAB 50. With a strong schedule and plenty of quality opponents waiting in the state tournament, Riverdale can still play its way back into the top 10, though the program's long shot at claiming No. 1 in 2011 seems unlikely.
Ben Davis (Indianapolis, Ind.) saw its multi-season winning streak end at 81 games, losing to Carmel (Carmel, Ind.) 65-62 in the state tournament. The Giants fell considerably, to 35th, because the team's schedule didn't include any national competition to offset the loss to an unranked team.
In New Jersey, Shabazz (Newark, N.J.) continues to impress and capped off a strong week with a 65-46 win over Mary Louis Academy (Jamaica, N.Y.). The Bulldogs improved to 25-0 and cracked the top 10 this week at No. 9.
A senior-laden Lake Mary (Lake Mary, Fla.) squad won in convincing fashion over regionally ranked Edgewater (Orlando, Fla.) 51-36 in the Class 6A regional quarterfinal round. The Rams improved to 27-2 after taking down DeLand (DeLand, Fla.) in the regional semifinal and moved into the FAB 50. If Lake Mary can beat Dr. Krop (Miami, Fla.), it could have a chance to right one of the team's two losses on the season in the state final if regionally ranked Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) can get past South Broward (Hollywood, Fla.). Dr. Phillips won the Dec. 11 matchup on Lake Mary's home court, 62-51.
Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.), winners of 16 straight, are cruising toward the sectional playoffs with three blowout victories this past week. Cheryl Draper's team is now 23-1 and is making its debut in the FAB 50 this week.
Eden Prairie (Eden Prairie, Minn.) falls out of the rankings this week with back-to-back losses, to Edina (Edina, Minn.) 53-52 and No. 45 Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.) 49-44.
Chamblee (Chamblee, Ga.) lost a tight game to Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) 43-41, the team's first defeat of the season, knocking it out of the Class 4A tournament and out of the FAB 50.
-- Chris Hansen
Records are through Feb. 21, 2011 games, where reported.
* denotes a team's season has ended.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.