High-SchoolGirls-Basketball: Jennie Simms

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

BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis from No. 1 seed Riverdale Baptist’s 73-42 win over No. 4 seed Edgewater in the semifinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep on Friday:

Overview: Both teams were missing their top player, with Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) senior Jonquel Jones and Edgewater (Orlando, Fla.) senior Alexis Prince both in Denver this weekend to participate in an All-American game. The difference, however, was that even without Jones, Riverdale Baptist still had six other Division I college recruits to work with.

The No. 6 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Riverdale Baptist played suffocating defense for 32 minutes to cruise into Saturday's NHSI final, which will be televised live at noon ET on ESPN2. With three starters taller than six feet, the Crusaders made it almost impossible for Edgewater to get a good look at the basket, forcing Edgewater into 13 percent shooting in the first half and a 19 percent mark for the game. Riverdale Baptist opened an 18-point margin in the second quarter and never looked back.

The trio of sophomore Auteaonna Gilmore, senior Kelila Atkinson and freshman De’Janae Boykin was especially productive for Riverdale Baptist, combining for 36 points. Senior Jennie Simms finished with eight points and 11 rebounds.

Riverdale Baptist is also without head coach Diane Richardson this weekend. Richardson and Jones are in Colorado to participate in the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association High School All-America Game.

Turning Point: Edgewater jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead to start the game, but once Riverdale Baptist settled in defensively, the game was over. The Crusaders forced nine turnovers in the first half and converted them into nine points. Edgewater managed just seven points in the first quarter and found itself trailing 33-18 at the half.

Boykin was a defensive catalyst for Riverdale Baptist, coming up with a pair of steals and five rebounds.

Key Player: Boykin put on a show in Jones’ absence. The 6-foot-1 guard/forward scored 12 points in addition to her five boards and two steals. The freshman’s play will be critical in Saturday’s championship game, when the Crusaders will once again be without Jones.

“De’Janae Boykin stepped up,” said Simms. “She’s capable of doing the same things as Jonquel. She really helped us on the boards.”

Key Stat: Baptist crushed Edgewater inside, finishing the game with a 54-10 advantage in scoring in the paint. With no player taller than 5-11 seeing minutes for Edgewater, the Eagles simply couldn’t compete under the basket.

Playing without the 6-foot-2 Prince certainly didn’t help matters. The Baylor-bound forward won MVP honors at the McDonald’s All-American Game earlier in the week.

“Normally Lexi handles the inside and locks that down,” said Edgewater junior guard Trimaine McCullough. “We weren’t able to fill that.”

Up Next: Riverdale Baptist will once again be without Jones in Saturday’s title game (ESPN2, noon ET), but the Crusaders have already proved they can play without her. Players like Boykin and reserve senior forward Brittany Murray (eight points, three rebounds) will have to continue to fill the void.

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.