Commentary

End of the Oregon Trail tournament Day 2

Originally Published: July 8, 2008
By Clay Kallam | ESPN HoopGurlz

Taber SpaniGlenn Nelson Taber Spani and Cy Fair are the favorites to win the title at the End of the Oregon Trail tournament.
OREGON CITY, Ore. -- After two days, the four divisions at the fabled End of the Oregon Trail tournament are beginning to sort themselves out. On Tuesday, teams will finally start seeing quality opposition every time out.

By the end of the last game Tuesday night, each of the four, 16-team brackets will have produced one champion. That quartet will go into a single-elimination tournament Wednesday with the championship game at 3:30 p.m. Oregon City time.

Here's a look at the most likely to succeed, from heavy favorite to long shot:

Cy-Fair Shock Nike Elite 1 -- With 6-foot-2 Chiney Ogwumike (2010) in the middle, 6-1 Taber Spani (2009) on the wing and the aptly named, 5-5 Monique Smalls (2009) on the perimeter, the Texas power has all the pieces in place for a title run. Of course, Rob Amboree has more than that trio to call on; Amanda Anderson (2009) is a sweet-shooting 6-2 wing and Shay Cooney-Williams (2009) made some big plays in the backcourt. There's depth as well and, after surviving an exhibition-game scare against the Boulder Rockies Red, Cy-Fair should be in high gear the rest of the way.

West Coast Premier Black -- West Coast Premier isn't far behind Cy-Fair, with a deep, balanced roster led by 6-2 Monique Oliver (2009) in the paint. Dannielle Diamant (2009) is even taller, at 6-4, but is a deadly 3-point shooter. And don't forget 5-11 Camille Buckley (2009), who combines strength and leaping ability in the paint. Outside? There's scorer Layshia Clarendon (2009), 2011 superstar Kaleena Lewis and defensive demon Eliza Pierre (2009), plus a host of SoCal stalwarts. This is not a team anyone wants to see on the other side of the scorer's table.

Cal Swish Black #1 -- And why, you ask, is the "#1" necessary? Because too many players were going to be upset if they weren't on the Black team, so Russ Davis just created two of them. Don't be fooled, though, as this Black team is the real Black team -- and an equally real threat to win it all. The Southern Californians are tall, long, skilled, quick and physical, as well as being well coached and possessed of a solid, proven system. USC commit Christina Marinacci (2009) leads what seems to be a horde of tall, long-armed 6-footers who can do just about everything (especially trap), but if quickness is required, 5-5 Jonae Ervin (2009) will step up. Depth is also an asset, and a tightly-called game will allow Davis to take advantage of his long bench.

Mile High Magic Gold -- With 6-4 Joanna McFarland (2009, verbal to Oklahoma) and 6-3 classmate Diana Rolniak (and her variety of spin moves) inside, 6-2 Sam Ostarello (2009, verbal to Purdue) can roam the wings -- when she can work her way into a crowded and deep rotation. Feisty point guard Mariah Williams (2009) and shooter Meagan Fulps (2009) give the Colorado team outside options, and the less-heralded Rachel Messer (2009) has also made some big plays. Composed entirely of rising seniors, Mile High has the experience to go along with the talent, and anything less than a berth in the championship game would be a disappointment.

Cal Sparks Gold -- The Sparks are from the ready/fire/aim school of shooting, so even if 6-4 Cierra Warren (2009) or 6-3 Thaddesia Southall (2010) have one foot in the paint, the odds favor a guard jacking up a J or putting her head down and getting to the rack. Still, the guards have tons of talent -- especially Ariya Crook-Williams (2011) -- and the defense is good enough to just take over games. But to beat the elite, Warren and Southall have to get the ball without having to come down with an offensive rebound or make a steal.

New Heights -- The New York entry has plenty of speed and quickness, but not a lot of height, which means Shakura Washington (2010) will have to translate her 5-11 self into a rebounding machine for New Heights to get past taller teams such as Mile High Gold. Monday's exhibition loss to the Oregon City High School team casts some doubts as to the Easterners' ability to sustain an offense for 32 minutes. They rely heavily on their sticky press to score.

North Tartan Larson 17 -- Though North Tartan lost to the West Coast Premier Black in an exhibition game, the Minnesota entry could still make a run for the title. Suriya McGuire (2010) is a solid point guard, and there are plenty of bigs inside. Still, North Tartan will need to handle pressure better to get to the final four or else all that inside talent -- such as 6-4 Katie Loberg (2009, verbal to Minnesota) -- will go to waste.

Wichita Bearcats -- Not considered among the top teams upon arrival, the Bearcats have shown themselves to be a dangerous opponent. Julia Marshall (2009) is a flat-out scorer, Tiffany Bias (2010) is quick on quick and 6-2 post Lindsay Keller (2009) is solid inside. Unfortunately, Keller is just about all the size the Bearcats have, and depth overall is an issue. Still, with Marshall scoring, Bias defending and Keller rebounding, the Kansas team has enough to make life hard for anyone.

[+] EnlargeJoslyn Tinkle
Glenn Nelson Joslyn Tinkle has been a standout for the Northwest Blazers.
Northwest Blazers -- USA Basketball surprised a lot of people by naming 6-3 Joslyn Tinkle (2009) to the U18 national team, but she's the real deal. Jazmine Redmon (2010) is a superior perimeter defender and Hanna Porter (2010) adds muscle down low, but it's going to be hard for this team to rise to the level of athleticism that's just around the corner. If the pace is slow and the turnovers few, the Blazers could surprise.

East Bay Xplosion Black -- EBX is a balanced, experienced team without great size. Six-foot Niveen Rasheed (2009) is smart and skilled, 6-1 Rachael Pecota (2009) can, and will, shoot it from anywhere, 5-9 Erica Radonovich (2010) is the 3-point ace and 6-0 Chelsey Christensen (2009) is the master of the killer weakside back screen. That said, the Xplosion will have trouble with the athleticism and full-court pressure of the top teams. They'll have to make everything to have a chance to go all the way.

NorCal Elite Black -- Afure Jemerigbe (2010), a 5-11 guard, can play with anybody, but the rest of the Elite are still a little young to match up with the EOT's best. Posts Erica Barnes (2010) and Khristina Hunter (2011) can cause problems inside, but constant pressure will wear down Jemerigbe and, after her, the handles get shakier.

Clay Kallam is a contributor to ESPN HoopGurlz. He is the founder of Full Court Press, an online magazine devoted to women's basketball; the author of "Girls Basketball: Building a Winning Program" and a voter for several national awards, including McDonald's and Parade All-Americans and the Wooden Award.

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