High-SchoolGirls-Basketball: Dr. Phillips

BETHESDA, Md. — Last season's ESPNHS National High School Invitational was not a pleasant experience for the Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) girls' team. The Crusaders entered the 2011 tournament as the favorite, but their stay was short, ending with an upset loss at the hands of No. 5 seed Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) in the first round.

A year later, Riverdale Baptist got a second chance at both Dr. Phillips and the NHSI, and the Crusaders made it count. Led by senior guard Jennie Simms’ 19 points and 14 rebounds, Riverdale Baptist beat Dr. Phillips 63-59 in the title game on Saturday to claim the NHSI crown.

For Simms and her teammates, losing to Dr. Phillips again was simply not an option.

“It was basically, ‘Get it back,’ because it’s rare that you get the chance to play a team again,” said Simms, the No. 87 senior in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100. “I told my team, 'We’ve got a second chance, and we can’t let them beat us twice.'”

Simms’ passion was apparent on the court, as the West Virginia recruit played a fiery, emotional game. She fought for every rebound and made several key plays down the stretch, including a put-back to give Riverdale Baptist a three-point lead with 15 seconds to play.

The No. 6 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Riverdale Baptist improved to 37-2 with the win. Dr. Phillips, the No. 22 team in the FAB 50, dropped to 30-4.

Guard Duo Steps Up for DP

Dr. Phillips once again received tremendous play from its backcourt of junior Sydnei McCaskill and sophomore Taryn Griffey, as the duo scored 19 points apiece in a losing effort.

Griffey poured in 17 points in the second half, converting several acrobatic finishes in crunch time as the Panthers tried to hold off the Riverdale Baptist rally. She averaged 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game at NHSI, while McCaskill averaged 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

Both were named to the All-Tournament team.

“We’re gifted in that area,” said Dr. Phillips coach Anthony Jones. “We’re blessed to have the backcourt that we have.”

Baptist Dominates the Boards

Riverdale Baptist simply pulverized Dr. Phillips on the glass, out-rebounding the defending NHSI champs 56-39. Riverdale Baptist was especially effective on the offensive boards -- the Crusaders grabbed 34, compared to 15 for DP.

Wake Forest-bound senior Kelila Atkinson grabbed 11 rebounds, with 10 coming off the offensive glass, and Simms was right in the middle of the action as well, pulling down eight offensive rebounds.

“We watched [Dr. Phillips] yesterday and we saw how they attacked the boards with their guards,” Simms said. “Rebounding was helping us out a lot, so I just kept attacking.”

MVP for Simms

Simms’ scoring touch and hard work on the boards earned her NHSI tournament MVP honors. In two games, the 6-foot guard/forward averaged 13.5 points and 12.5 rebounds.

“She made the difference today,” said Jones. “Even when she’s not scoring, she does little things like sprinting into the paint and knocking the rebound loose. And when she knocked it out, they were getting all those loose balls.”

Simms credited her teammates for helping her earn the MVP award.

“It’s all about the team,” she said. “I was able to find them and they were able to find me. They were able to get me the ball where I was able to score it. My team helped me get it."

All-Tournament Team

In addition to Simms, McCaskill and Griffey, the All-Tournament team was rounded out by Riverdale Baptist sophomore guard Auteaonna Gilmore and H.D. Woodson (Washington, D.C.) senior forward Jephany Brown.

Gilmore averaged 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and two assists in the tournament, while Brown posted 27 points and nine rebounds in a first-round loss to Dr. Phillips.

The full team:

Jennie Simms, Riverdale Baptist (MVP)
Jephany Brown, H.D. Woodson
Auteaonna Gilmore, Riverdale Baptist
Taryn Griffey, Dr. Phillips
Sydney McCaskill, Dr. Phillips
Taryn GriffeyRIKUHer dad, Ken Griffey Jr., is one of the greatest players in baseball history and her brother, Trey, is one of the nation's top prep football players, but Taryn Griffey has earned her share of the spotlight.

If there's one thing Taryn Griffey knows how to do, it's perform under a spotlight.

For someone who's growing up Griffey, that's sort of a prerequisite. Whenever the Dr. Phillips High School (Orlando, Fla.) sophomore takes the court, she's automatically the center of attention as soon as the PA announcer reads off her last name.

That's what happens when your father is a baseball icon, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer with 630 career home runs and 10 Gold Gloves. And when your older brother is a star wide receiver at the same high school and signs a football scholarship to play at Arizona, that only raises the stakes.

"I realize that anytime someone from this family does something in sports, there are always going to be expectations," Taryn said. "People expect you to be a great athlete or whatever, but I don't worry about that so much."

Sure, Ken Griffey Jr. may be one of the greatest players in baseball history, and Trey Griffey may be one of the best high school football players in the country, but Taryn has earned her share of the spotlight.

The 5-foot-7 point guard has already established herself as one of the nation's top basketball players by using a combination of athleticism and energy to take over games against even the best competition. She's rated as the No. 13 point guard in the ESPN HoopGurlz Class of 2014 rankings.

As a freshman last season, she averaged 15.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists while leading Dr. Phillips to a Florida Class 8A state title. She followed that with a star-making performance at the 2011 National High School Invitational tournament, averaging 16.0 points and 10.0 rebounds while powering the Panthers to the championship.

Taryn Griffey
RIKUFamily time for the Griffeys "usually means what dad wants to do [is] what we're going to do," said Ken (second from right) with (from left) Trey, Melissa, Tevin and Taryn -- and it's usually something competitive.
"You would have never known she was a freshman," said Dr. Phillips coach Anthony Jones. "To play in the NHSI, with the games on TV on ESPN, and be so cool and relaxed -- she knocked down shots, she made big steals -- she just made every big play right when we needed it."

Opponents are unable to handle her quickness, and Jones takes advantage of that by making Griffey the centerpiece of Dr. Phillips' offensive and defensive schemes. She upped her scoring output to 16.4 points per game this season, shooting 56 percent from the field and an absurd 49 percent from behind the 3-point line. She also fronted the Panthers' trapping defense and averaged 3.4 steals.

"I think our style is fun," Taryn said. "I have the freedom to take the ball up the court and make plays. Mostly I just try to use my quickness to set up my teammates for shots. If I can't find anyone, then I try to look for my own shot.

"On defense, we trap and then play a zone, trying to force turnovers. We try to make it a fast-paced or up-tempo game."

With Griffey dominating both ends of the court, Dr. Phillips went 29-3 this season and won the Class 8A state championship in February. The Panthers are ranked No. 22 in the POWERADE FAB 50 and earned the No. 2 seed for NHSI.

Last season, Dr. Phillips was the lowest-seeded team in the tournament. And just because the Panthers are now the defending champs and one of the favorites, Griffey realizes that nothing is guaranteed.

Taryn Griffey
Joe FaraoniGriffey's quickness makes the 5-foot-7 guard a force on both ends of the court.
"Even though you're ranked higher than another team, they're not going to stop playing," she said. "We know because we did it last year. We were the underdogs and we fought all the way to the championship. So we know our opponents are going to play their hearts out, and we have to step up and be ready for that."

Griffey is obviously no stranger to competition. As one could imagine, being a member of America's royal sports family means earning respect through countless games of H-O-R-S-E. Her mother, Melissa, recalls how Taryn and Trey would battle their parents on the basketball court.

"Ken always had a rule," said Melissa, laughing. "The kids were always very competitive, but his rule was that once they started talking junk, he wasn't going to let them win anymore. We'd let them beat us when they were younger, but once they started talking junk, we took it up a level. Because you know Ken didn't like to lose, either."

If Taryn Griffey can lead Dr. Phillips to another NHSI crown this week, that would give her a pair of state titles and two NHSI victories in her first two high school seasons.

Even for a Griffey, that's impressive.

Riverdale Baptist gets No. 1 seed for NHSI

March, 21, 2012
SimmsGlenn Nelson/ESPN.com Jennie Simms and top-seeded Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) will take on Edgewater (Orlando, Fla.) in the first round of the NHSI.
The seeds have been announced for the ESPNHS National High School Invitational, and Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) has earned the No. 1 spot.

The top-seeded Crusaders (35-2) are currently the nation's No. 6 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 after winning an NACA national championship earlier this month. The team is led by Jonquel Jones, a senior who is currently ranked as the nation's No. 36 senior in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100. Jones, who has committed to Clemson, is unlikely to play at NHSI because she has been invited to participate in the WBCA All-America game in Denver on March 31, coach Diane Richardson said. Fellow seniors Kelila Atkinson, a Wake Forest recruit and the nation's No. 85 prospect in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100, and Jennie Simms a West Virginia recruit ranked No. 87, will lead the team.

The Crusaders will face Edgewater (Orlando, Fla.) in the first round after the Eagles drew the No. 4 seed in the tourney. Edgewater (28-4) is currently the nation's No. 28 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 and recently won a Florida Class 6A state championship. Edgewater will most likely be without its star as well, as Alexis Prince also plans to play in the WBCA All-America game, according to her club coach Kimberly Davis-Powell. Sophomores Markeema Crawford (15.9 points per game) and Haley Clark (9.2 points per game) will lead the team.

The other first-round contest will pair second-seeded Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) against HD Woodson (Washington, D.C.).

Dr. Phillips (29-3) is currently the nation's No. 22 squad in the POWERADE FAB 50 and is the reigning NHSI champion. The team recently won the Florida Class 8A championship. Sophomore Taryn Griffey, the daughter of former MLB superstar Ken Griffey Jr., is the team's leader and is considered one of the top players in the Class of 2014. She averaged 16.4 points per game this season. Junior Sydnei McCaskill is also one of the team's leaders, and the duo forms one of the nation's most dangerous backcourts.

HD Woodson (26-5) enters the NHSI tournament as a No. 3 seed after earning an upset win over Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) in the Washington D.C. city title game on Tuesday. Good Counsel was previously ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50. The senior-laden HD Woodson team is led by Jephany Brown, who averaged 17.6 points per game this season for the Warriors.

The tournament will begin on Thursday, March 29 and continue through March 31 at Georgetown Preparatory School's Hanley Center for Athletic Excellence in Bethesda, Md. The girls' first-round games will be on March 30 on ESPNU, and the championship game will be on March 31 at 12 p.m. EST on ESPN2.

Field set for girls' teams at NHSI

March, 8, 2012
The fourth annual ESPNHS National High School Invitational, which will take place March 29-31 at Georgetown Prep (Bethesda, Md.), features three girls' teams ranked in the ESPNHS POWERADE FAB 50 rankings, including defending champion Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.).

The girls' semifinal games will be broadcast on ESPNU and the championship will air on ESPN2. All telecasts will also be available through ESPN3 and WatchESPN.

Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) won last year's event as the No. 5 seed, beating 2011 No. 1 Riverdale Baptist 64-61 in a play-in game, overcoming a five-point halftime deficit to beat third-seeded Archbishop Spalding (Md.) in the semifinals and rallying past fourth-seeded Murry Bergtraum (N.Y.) 60-45 in the final. Dr. Phillips joined Seton Keough (Baltimore, Md.), and Peddie School (Hightstown, N.J.) as NHSI girls' champions. Seedings and matchups for this year's event have not been set.

"Just being invited to [NHSI] means a lot for our high school and also for every player in the state of Florida," said Dr. Phillips coach Anthony Jones.


FAB 50 No. 7 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.)
Diane Richardson
Key player: Jonquel Jones, the No. 6 ranked forward in the Class of 2012 according to ESPN HoopGurlz, is also the Gatorade State Player of the Year for Maryland. Her range and shooting stroke have earned her comparisons to Kevin Durant.
More Info: Jones (Clemson) is one of five Riverdale Baptist seniors who have committed to a Division I college program. The others are Jennie Simms (West Virginia), Brittany Murray (La Salle), Domonique Johnson (Towson) and Kelila Atkinson (Wake Forest).

FAB 50 No. 29 Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.)
Anthony Jones
Key player: Sophomore Taryn Griffey, a four-star guard with explosive leaping ability.
More Info: Griffey, the daughter of former MLB star Ken Griffey Jr., led the Panthers to their second consecutive Class 8A Florida state title, pouring in 17 points and pulling down 16 rebounds in a 72-50 win over Dr. Krop (Miami, Fla.). Junior guard Sydnei McCaskill also had 17 points in the state title game.

FAB 50 No. 34 Edgewater (Orlando, Fla.)
Malcolm Lewis
Key player: Senior wing Alexis Prince, a Baylor commit and the No. 16 prospect in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100.
More Info: The Eagles (28-6) beat Miami Norland 46-36 to win the FHSAA 6A State championship. Prince had 13 rebounds and seven blocks in the title game. Sophomore guard Markeema Crawford led the team in scoring with 15 points.

H.D. Woodson (Washington, D.C.)
Frank Oliver Jr.
Key player: Senior post Jephany Brown, a 6-foot-1 power forward and Providence commit.
More Info: Brown and Chanel Green, a 5-7 point guard, led the Warriors to their seventh straight D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title. Woodson will face Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champ Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) in the Abe Pollin City Title Game on March 20.

Trey and Taryn Griffey: Brother knows best

June, 7, 2011
ESPNHS GIRL: Rising hoops star Taryn Griffey is one of the nation's best young ballers

Taryn Griffey and Trey Griffey
RIKUTrey Griffey, left, is his sister's biggest fan.
Unlike many siblings who are close in age, Trey and Taryn Griffey get along well -- aside from the occasional argument, of course. Trey credits Taryn with helping make him a better player. He can compete with her in most sports, he says, but not in basketball.

“That’s her advantage sport. So we play it a lot,” says Trey. “We used to play Knockout, H.O.R.S.E., do a lot of stuff. She gets me all the time. We’ll play Around the World, and I’ll usually get to like the fifth shot and just stay there, while she’ll just go around the whole thing and then start laughing. And then she’ll miss the last shot on purpose, so she can go to the beginning and around again, just to make me feel bad.”

Trey punctuates this last line with a laugh, but he’s serious about his sister’s talent.

“She’s determined. She’s young but she’s played against kids older than her, so once she gets to her senior year, I don’t think anybody’s going to be able to stop her, honestly,” he says. “She proved to everybody this year that even though she’s young and she’s small, she can shoot. I believe she can outplay basically anybody.”

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of ESPNHS Girl magazine. Click here to subscribe.