ORLANDO, Fla. -- With a target squarely on the back of the Boo Williams Summer League squad, the girls delivered Wednesday.
After walloping most opponents on the way to semifinals in the AAU Junior Showcase, the Boo Williams team survived a bump in the road and then went for a cruise. And as if name recognition wasn't enough, the pressure was on to beat Miami's Team Breakdown -- a familiar opponent from pool play -- for a second time.
But pressure doesn't phase these girls -- one more reason they're on the Boo Williams squad -- and they handed another 11-point loss to Miami's Team Breakdown 73-62.
Team Breakdown, with Aeriel Wilson's 19 points and Bianca Lutley's 17 leading the offensive charge, put up a good fight, keeping things interesting early and leading for most of the first half.
"We were focused in the first half," Lutley said. "But we lost all our focus."
While Breakdown lost focus, Williams' halftime speech inspired something in his players as they opened with a 20-8 run in the second half and maintained that lead until the end. Guard Daniell Jackson led the club with 19 points, while Ta'Shauna Rodgers added 18.
Now with a title in one of July's first tournaments, the Boo Williams club is on its way toward its hopeful finish: a title at Nike Nationals at the end of July.
"Everybody's going to be coming after us," Rodgers said. "We just have to play."
But it wasn't a perfectly smooth Wednesday, as the road had one major bump: a morning semifinal with the New York Gauchos. For the first time in the tournament, the Boo Williams players struggled with an opponent after the athletic Gauchos erased a double-digit first-half deficit. But Rodgers hit clutch shots at the end, finishing with 12, and Alyssa Bennett, Simone Egwu and Asya Bussie pulled down rebounds as the Boo Williams team edged the Gauchos, 57-55.
"It gave us more confidence to work harder [in the championship]," Bennett said of the close call. "That confidence is what won us our championship."
In the other semifinal, Team Breakdown made quick work of the Philadelphia Belles, despite nearly missing the game's noon start. With the Belles on the court and warmups winding down, Breakdown finally entered the Jostens Center and then hustled to the court, where the team was given a 10-minute warmup period.
The adrenaline must have been pumping for the Breakdown's eight players as they opened with an 8-0 run on the Belles. After Philadelphia made a game of it in the second half despite off shooting, Breakdown pulled out a 62-49 win. Lutley led the way with 19 points, while Dawnn Maye added 16 and Wilson scored 12.
In the Gold Division's third-place game, Gauchos guard China Crosby, ranked No. 16 in the ESPN HoopGurlz 100 for 2009, scored 31 points in a loss to the Philadelphia Belles. Of her 31 points, Crosby scored 18 by hitting six threes... In the Silver Division, a young Essence 2009 team beat the Silver Bullets NY Elite 92-87 for the championship. Erica Wheeler, No. 32 in the 2009 ESPN HoopGurlz 100, led the Essence squad with 16 points, while teammate Jaterra Bonds added 15. The GA/LINA 76ers finished third after the Alabama Twisters chose to leave early... In the Bronze Division, The Family took the championship with a 60-58 win against the New York Gauchos Black. Ontario's Windsor Valiants finished third after a 65-53 win against the Alabama Lasers.
Tuesday's Top Performances
China Crosby, New York Gauchos, 31 points vs. Philadelphia Belles
Jessica Morton, GA/LINA 76ers, 23 points vs. Essence 2009
Erica Wheeler, Essence 2009, 21 points vs. GA/LINA 76ers
Eugeneia McPherson, Silver Bullets NY Elite, 21 points vs. Essence 2009
Khristian Lee, Alabama Lasers, 21 points vs. Windsor Valiants
Alex Bentley, The Family, 20 points vs. Windsor Valiants
Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and barista at Starbucks. She grew up in Seattle where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. Mindi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.