Friday, January 13, 2012
Hoophall: Cicero North (N.Y.) 60, West Side 20
By Brendan Hall
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- In a tournament typically stacked with some of the nation's premier high school basketball talent, there are times at the Hoophall Classic where a dominant player puts on an impressive, all-out dominant show.
Then there are times where the show evolves into a comedy.
To put it bluntly, Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) senior center Breanna Stewart -- the No. 1 ranked overall senior on ESPN HoopGurlz -- put on a cartoonish display in the Northstars' 60-20 thrashing of West Springfield (9-1), racking up 22 points, 18 rebounds, seven blocks and four assists. Through one half, the 6-foot-4 UConn commit had racked up 14 points and 12 rebounds seemingly without effort, scoring from wherever she wanted and violently muscling defenders out of her way to pounce on loose boards.
Stewart was fluid in every aspect of the game for the Northstars (8-2), as adept at hucking 50-foot outlet passes up court as she was at stepping out to the wing and hitting jump shots. Underneath, she redirected nearly every shot that came in her radius, with her endless length, and demonstrated exceptional leaping ability on second-chance opportunities.
"She's the only high school kid on the National team for a reason," West Side coach Paul Taylor said of Stewart. "She's very good, and if you can find some holes in her game, nobody else has."
By halftime, the Northstars were up 39-9. By the third quarter, she was putting together sequences that drew smiles from all over. First, she swatted two shots in one possession in the first minute. A minute later, in transition, Stewart stopped at her own foul line to attempt to tie her shoe; after a second, she just tucked the laces in, joined the 4-on-5 rush and sank a three-pointer from the top of the key.
With about a minute to go in the stanza, she sent her seventh block of the night square off the referee's head, drawing laughter.
"When did I do that?" she laughed. "I didn't even see it, I'm not sure."
Fog of war, perhaps?
West Side's star point guard, 5-foot-5 Boston University commit Dana Theobald admitted "it was a lot of fun" playing against Stewart; she let out a smile and laughed a bit when Stewart sent one of her layups flying out of bounds.
Even when she had the ball, Theobald admitted finding herself watching Stewart work down low.
"Yeah, she's amazing to watch," Theobald said. "Even when she blocked my shots, it was like 'Wow, that's amazing'...It was like a volleyball spike."
Senior Brittany Paul also had 18 points in the win for Cicero.
Perimeter Pestulence: As much as Stewart stole the show, it was an impressive display overall by the Northstars' defense, pressuring Theobald high in the zone, trapping the ballcarrier and denying clean ball movement around the perimeter. Between Paul, junior Sarah Bowles and junior Abbey Timpano, Cicero played tight enough to make the Terrier uncomfortable.
At times, Theobald settled for off-balance, low-percentage shots. Other times, the defense funneled things down to Stewart, who took care of the rest. As a team, the Terriers were a measly 5 for 62 from the field, and were outrebounded 60-34 (including 44-20 on defensive boards).
Matchup nightmare: How do you match up with a 6-foot-4 center ranked as the No. 1 player in the country? If you're the 99 percent, you can't.
Taylor matched up guard/forward Emily Taylor on Stewart, acknowledging that she was giving up nearly 10 inches, and kept his 5-foot-10 freshman center Nicole Longey at the weak post. The plan didn't go as well as Taylor wanted, but he praised her efforts nonetheless.
"She's 5-foot-7, and we only have one center, so we wanted to have the center on the back side and have the guard help out on the front side," Taylor said. "It didn't work out as planned. We didn't shoot as well as we usually do, Stewart's a great talent. But it's a good team overall, they have a lot of good players on the team."