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Thursday, December 22, 2011
Expect clash of styles in Anderson final

By Rebecca Gray
HoopGurlz

Kelsey Plum
Kelsey Plum, the No. 31 prospect in the class of 2013, looks to lead Country Day (La Jolla, Calif.) to the Anderson Division championship Thursday against Holy Cross (Kensington, Md.).

In a battle for a championship between a West Coast team and an East Coast team, who would prevail?

It's a question that can be answered Thursday when Country Day (La Jolla, Calif.) and No. 19 Academy of the Holy Cross (Kensington, Md.) face in the championship game of the John Anderson Invitational Division.

These two teams are not only from opposite sides of the country, but their styles of play are also stark contrasts. The East Coast is known for its halfcourt sets, where teams grind out each play and get it done one possession at a time. As for the West, it's more of a run-and-gun offensive scheme that involves a lot of transition baskets and nonstop pressure on defense.

Country Day holds true to the West Coast style of play, and it knocked off Brea Olinda (Calif.) 67-50 Wednesday in a semifinal win that included plenty of easy points off turnovers. The Torreys press on every defensive possession, and although it might not have an immediate impact on the game in the first half, opponents become more and more fatigued as the second half progresses.

Defense is always an important part of Country Day's game plan, but against Brea the team focused on specifics to get the win.

As Pandora Wilson demonstrates, Holy Cross' size was a handful for Erin Nelson and St. Joseph's Academy.
As Pandora Wilson demonstrates, Holy Cross' size was a handful for Erin Nelson and St. Joseph's Academy.

"We knew we had to take away their 3-point attempts and finish with rebounds," coach Terri Bamford said.

Country Day, which bases its attack on speed, is a smaller team. Its tallest player is listed at 5-foot-11. Size could be a concern against Holy Cross, which has four players 6-feet or taller.

Against No. 28 St. Joseph's Academy (St. Louis, Mo.), Holy Cross used that advantage in the paint both offensively and defensively to post a 51-35 semifinal win.

Although Holy Cross seems to fit the East Coast's grind-it-out style on offense, the team adds a few different types of presses on defense.

"We are looking at running our style," coach Eddie Simpson said. "We want to press a lot and we want to make sure we are putting the pressure on them while containing and closing out as well."

Both teams have rosters that include extremely talented players. Country Day features Kelsey Plum, the No. 31 prospect in the class of 2013, as well as senior twins Maya Hood and Malina Hood. Pandora Wilson, a 6-foot senior forward, Rhamat Alhassan, a 6-5 sophomore center, and Jillian Dunston, a 5-9 sophomore guard, lead the way for Holy Cross.

The Tartans, though, are missing one of their stars in 6-5 Lanay Montgomery, who is coming off of an ACL tear. Montgomery is expected to return within the next month, but the Tartans know they could use her much sooner.

"She's a finisher by the basket," Simpson said. "She is a defender that will change a lot of shots and, more than anything, she is that leader on the floor."

In the end, geography won't matter when West Coast meets East Coast. Sure, each team has its own style, skills and strengths, but Thursday's final will all come down to which one brings its A-game to the court.

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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 rebecca@hoopgurlz.com.