Editor's note: ESPN will release the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national girls' basketball rankings each Wednesday of the season.
When it comes to playoff time, the road to a championship can often lead right through the toughest opponents possible.
Three teams ranked in Feb. 18's ESPN RISE FAB 50 lost in postseason play to another FAB 50 team and, for two of the losing teams, it meant an end to their successful seasons.
In Alabama, the fourth meeting of then-No. 31 Bob Jones (Madison, Ala.) and then-No. 35 Sparkman (Harvest, Ala.) disproved one theory about the rivalry. In the programs' seven previous meetings, the first team to score 40 points in the often low-scoring games won.
This time, it was the team closest to 40.
Bob Jones claimed a 38-26 victory behind 19 points from senior Jala Harris. With a 24-23 lead going into the final eight minutes, the Patriots outscored Sparkman 14-3 for the win, allowing the Senators just two looks from the field in the fourth quarter. Both shots were three-point attempts that missed as Sparkman's only points came from the line in the final period.
LSU-bound Adrienne Webb was held to two points by the Patriots' defense, despite playing all 32 minutes.
Sparkman, which beat Bob Jones 45-40 twice in the regular season, lost to the Patriots 40-28 in the Area 15 championship two weeks earlier. Bob Jones advances to the 6A final four, which begins Thursday.
Another team set on not repeated past missteps was No. 2 Ben Davis (Indianapolis) which had a tough end to its season one year ago, as Metropolitan Conference rival Carmel (Ind.) beat the Giants in the regional championship.
This year, sporting a 27-0 record, Ben Davis was determined to move on to this weekend's final four.
The Giants got their wish, and a Saturday date with 23-1 Mooresville (Ind.), as they defeated 2008's 4A champion Carmel, 65-42, Saturday. In the win, sophomore Brian Goss led Ben Davis with 17 points, while Penn State signee Alex Bentley added 15. In Saturday morning's win that allowed the Carmel rematch, junior Jordan Huber led the Giants with 11, while Bentley added 10.
The one losing team still alive, then-No. 4 Cardinal O'Hara (Springfield, Pa.), missed the championship game in the Philadelphia Catholic League's tournament after a 50-42 semifinal loss to then-No. 15 Archbishop Carroll (Radnor, Pa.).
With the PCL teams playing the Pennsylvania public schools in postseason for the first time this year, O'Hara is still alive, entering playoffs as the top PCL seed among 4A teams. Carroll and Archbishop Wood, the teams that squared off in Monday's PCL title game, are both 3A programs. O'Hara faces Central (Philadelphia), the city's Public League champion, Sunday.
The Germantown Academy (Fort Washington, Pa.) program can dub itself the 'Perfect Patriots' this season after wrapping up a 31-0 record with its 11th consecutive Inter-Academic League championship and Saturday's Pennsylvania Independent School tournament title. The Patriots, with seniors Jesse Carey and Alexa Gallagher and juniors Maggie Lucas and Tory Thierolf leading the way, also won the Naples Holiday Shootout in December.
Those hoping for a rematch between Texas' top bigs should check Tuesday's results. If No. 45 Dulles (Sugar Land, Texas) gets past North Shore (Houston) and No. 24 Nimitz (Houston) survived Cinco Ranch (Katy, Texas), then Dulles' Kelsey Bone and Nimitz's Brittney Griner will meet for the second time this season Saturday. In November's game, Bone and Dulles escaped with a 64-63 win. For Griner, the country's top-ranked senior, it would be a chance to lead her team to victory and avenge the Cougars' lone loss this season.
Off the bounce
This year, it took overtime for the Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) program to win the program's seventh 5A state title. Senior Whitney Heleker, a reserve player for the Vikings, hit a three-pointer in the final two seconds, and hit the free throw after being fouled on the shot, to seal a 54-50 win against Centennial. For the fourth time this season, No. 25 Butler (Matthews, N.C.) and league rival then-No. 41 East Mecklenburg (Charlotte, N.C.) faced off Friday, and for the fourth time, Butler beat the Eagles, whose only losses in a 22-4 campaign are to the Bulldogs. Butler sophomore Cierra Burdick hit the game-winning layup in the final minute for the 25-1 Bulldogs. Centennial (Las Vegas) started the move toward a spot in the FAB 50 with Friday's win against rival and Las Vegas power Bishop Gorman. Together, the two Sunset Region teams have won the past seven 4A state titles, with Gorman on a three-year streak combing into this season. Centennial nabbed the region's top spot into the final four, while Gorman bounced back to claim the No. 2 seed with a win Saturday. The two schools will likely meet Friday for the state title. Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada and the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools will all crown champions this weekend. No. 22 Westbury Christian (Houston) plays in one of the TAPPS 4A semifinals Friday.
Debuting at No. 48 is Washington Township (Sewell, N.J.), which beat then-No. 26 Shabazz, 54-47, Feb. 16 for the Bulldogs' first loss of the season. Entering at No. 50 is another New Jersey-based program, the Peddie School (Hightstown, N.J.), which has been on the bubble of entering the FAB 50 for much of the season.
Carmel (Ind.) and Ocean City (N.J.) both leave after brief, one-week appearances in the FAB 50. Carmel ended its season at 19-5 with a loss to No. 2 Ben Davis in the sectional championship. Ocean City is 22-2 after a loss to then-No. 29 St. John Vianney (Holmdel, N.J.).
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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 Feb. 22.