Editor's note: ESPN will release the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national girls' basketball rankings each Wednesday of the season.
Whew, that was a close one.
A handful of coaches breathed a collective sigh of relief over the weekend, while their counterparts stomped their feet or threw up their hands in exasperation. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend had no shortage of exciting games with intense endings, and it all started at the top of the ESPN RISE FAB 50.
No. 1 South Bend Washington (South Bend, Ind.) needed all 32 minutes of the clock to survive against then-No. 10 Bolingbrook (Ill.) Saturday in the Chicagoland Classic. Notre Dame-bound Skylar Diggins was fouled on a layup attempt at the buzzer and hit her first free throw for a 66-65 victory.
Despite missing sophomore point guard Ariel Massengale, who was sick and played less than a quarter, Bolingbrook outscored the Panthers 26-14 in the third quarter to tie the game at 41. As the game went back and forth in the final quarter, Diggins and her tough teammates were able to swing things back into Washington's favor.
Washington's defense forced three turnovers in the final minute, while Diggins hit four free throws and senior Jasmine Watson scored a basket. Diggins finished with 23 points, 13 on free throws.
Then-No. 7 Murry Bergtraum (New York City) was the next on the firing line as the Blazers took another trip to New Jersey and barely escaped with their now 70-game win streak in tact.
After pulling out to a 59-56 lead with 3:22 remaining, then-No. 38 St. John Vianney didn't score again the rest of the game, while Bergtraum found the five points it needed for the 61-59 win. The final four, including the game winner with three seconds on the clock, game from junior Doris Ortega, who finished with 18.
Bergtraum, which typically blows out its opponents, has won two games in the past two weeks by less than 10 points each. Blazers coach Ed Grezinsky told FiveBoroSports.com that the close win was important for his team.
"That's the most well-coached team we've played all year," Grezinsky said. "We're not going to play against a better team."
In Colorado, it doesn't seem to matter the personnel or experience on either side when Continental League opponents Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.) and Highlands Ranch (Colo.) in their lone league meet each season.
Hosting the game for the third year in a row, Highlands Ranch, the defending 5A champions that graduated two players to Division I teams a year ago, trailed for much of the game. The Falcons' leading scorer, Denver-bound Jenessa Burke, was held scoreless through three quarters by Regis' tough, tenacious defense and senior T'Keyah Shealy.
Nearly 1,500 fans packed the Ranch gym, giving the regular season game a feel closer to that of the state tournament, where the two teams battled for the 5A title in March. But Burke, who was the Falcons' sixth man 10 months ago, pulled off the same feat she pulled off against Regis in the 2008 state title game -- a game-winning three-pointer that beat the final buzzer.
"You can call is deja vu or Groundhog Day," Regis coach Carl Mattei wrote in an e-mail to ESPN HoopGurlz. "The atmosphere was incredible for the town ... and the game was absolutely incredible for all the fans to see."
"I just wanted a basket," Highlands Ranch coach Caryn Jarocki told the Denver Post. "(Burke) has the green light."
Then-No. 4 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) continued its move up the charts with a win in its cross-country trip to the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. Battling Northampton, Massachusetts' defending Division I champion, the Monarchs showed no signs of fatigue or fear, heading home to California with a 75-46 victory Friday. Sophomore Kaleena Lewis led the way with 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in front of a crowd that included Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma. Mater Dei forced 27 turnovers in the win.
Another holiday weekend is gone and now, teams move on to their familiar foes. For some, it's rivalry week, for others, it was just a good draw. For No. 29 Cajon (San Bernadino, Calif.) and No. 34 Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.), Saturday is their second meeting of the season but the first in league play. Cajon was victorious Dec. 6 in Brea's tournament, 53-46, leaving Brea Olinda wanting a little payback this time around. Sunday on the opposite coast, No. 50 Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) battles undefeated Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pa.), which is hungry to prove it deserves a spot in the Fab 50.
Off the bounce
Then-No. 9 Whitney Young (Chicago) gave coach Corry Irvin her 200th career victory with a 75-53 win again previously undefeated Wheeling (Ill.). Sophomore Chanise Jenkins led the Dolphins with 21 points and 11 assists in the McDonald's Girls Shooutout game Monday. ... Sparkman (Harvest, Ala.), previously ranked No. 26, lost to in-state opponent Butler (Huntsville, Ala.), 35-30, for its first loss of the season. ... Highlands Ranch coach Caryn Jarocki won her 400th game Jan. 10 with the Falcons' 83-46 win against Durango (Colo.). ... MacArthur (Irving, Texas) lost its second game of the season, 54-49, to district opponent Cedar Hill (Texas). ... Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) continued to show its dominance in Washington with wins against two top 4A opponents, 76-64 Saturday against Federal Way (Wash.) and 75-48 Monday against Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma, Wash.).
A lone new entry this week, Carroll (Wichita, Kan.) enters at No. 40 with a 9-0 record after knocking off then-No. 23 Wichita Heights, 75-58.
With its second loss of the season, Murrah (Jackson, Miss.) drops to 13-2 and out of the Fab 50.
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Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Records through Jan. 19.