The season continues to wind down and the margin for error continues to get slimmer with each round of playoffs. There has been no shortage of top 20 teams falling in recent weeks. But the nation's two top seniors have their respective teams playing great basketball at the right time.
Out West, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) has been quietly playing its best basketball of the season. On the East Coast, Elizabeth Williams, the No. 2 player in the 2011 class who missed nine games this season with a sprained medial collateral ligament, helped her Princess Anne (Virginia Beach, Va.) team to avenge its only loss of the season, with a 66-62 win over Lake Taylor (Norfolk, Va.).
Williams injured her knee on Dec. 29 in a big Princess Anne victory over Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.). The first of her nine games out of action was Princess Anne's 39-34 defeat to Lake Taylor in the Ronald Curry/Boo Williams Girl's Christmas Classic.
In retrospect, Williams sees her injury as a blessing in disguise and a key to how good her team is now.
"It actually worked to our advantage because everyone had to look to score," Williams said.
With the nation's top senior post out of the lineup, the team found a more aggressive and confident mentality.
Princess Anne avoided the emotional letdown Monday night against Woodside (Newport News, Va.), winning the regional championship 56-42. Williams said she didn't play her best individual game -- a triple-double with 12 points, 16 rebounds and 11 blocks -- but that's why this team is so good right now and closing in on another Virginia AAA state championship.
Despite being ranked in the top three of the POWERADE FAB 50 for the entire season, including opening the season at No. 1, Mater Dei is hitting its stride.
"I feel like if we're not at our peak, we're getting there," said Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the No. 1 prospect in the senior class, according to ESPN HoopGurlz. "We've grown a lot since that last loss. Team chemistry is great."
The team suffered its only loss of the season in the semifinal of the Nike Tournament of Champions. The five-point loss to Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) was expected to set the table for a playoff rematch. A season ago, Mater Dei rebounded from an early season loss to Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.) to beat its Orange County rival in the playoffs and ultimately finished the season as the nation's No. 1 team.
Poly was bounced out of the sectional playoffs by Santa Monica (Santa Monica, Calif.) in a heart-breaking 57-56 loss.
"We were looking forward to avenging that loss but with Poly out, we move forward," Mosqueda-Lewis added.
Mosqueda-Lewis loves the defense that her team is playing now and cites the team figuring out everyone's roles with so many new faces as a major reason the team is surging late. But the Connecticut-bound senior, who has made 93 threes in the Monarchs 27 games this season, has no intention of overlooking anyone.
"Santa Monica is a great team and they can beat us and keep us from reaching our goal of another national championship," Mosqueda-Lewis said.
This is the time of year when special players rise to the occasion, like Williams' triple-double or Mosqueda-Lewis' 29 points and five 3-pointers in the quarterfinals against Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.). Both players know they can carry the load if their team needs it. But they are at peace with how much success their teams are having with teammates stepping up as well.
-- Chris Hansen
Through an extended partnership with When We Were Young Productions/PlayOn Sports, ESPN3.com will air all girls' high-school championship games from Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee. Saturday, March 5, will be a particularly busy day with ESPN3.com carrying eight championship games from all three states. The full schedule (all times Eastern):
Friday, March 4: Illinois 3A semifinal, 1 p.m.; Illinois 3A semifinal, 3:15 p.m.; Illinois 4A semifinal, 7:30 p.m.; Illinois 4A semifinal, 9:15 p.m.
Saturday, March 5: Indiana A final, 9:30 a.m.; Indiana 2A final, 11:30 a.m.; Tennessee Division II Class A, 12:00 p.m.; Illinois 3A final, 4:00 p.m.; Tennessee Division II Class AA final, 4:00 p.m.; Indiana 3A final, 4:00 p.m.; Indiana 4A final, 7:00 p.m.; Illinois 4A final, 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 12: Tennessee 1A final, 3:00 p.m.; Tennessee 2A final, 5:00 p.m.; Tennessee 3A final, 7:00 p.m.
Reitz Memorial (Evansville, Ind.) advanced to the 3A title game with its 69-59 win over Roncalli (Indianapolis, Ind.) and will face Benton Central (Oxford, Ind.) for a chance to cut down the nets. Memorial (28-1) junior point guard Natalie Cohlmeyer has quietly put together a fantastic season after missing much of the last two seasons with knee injuries. She is averaging 11.3 points per game but her most impressive stat to date is her 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. ... Westbury Christian (Houston, Texas) freshman Brianna Turner scored 31 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and swatted away 5 shots in her team's 90-26 win over Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas). The win puts No. 9 Westbury Christian in the TAPPS state championship game. ... Taylor Brown, Bishop McNamara's (Forestville, Md.) senior point guard, was named the WCAC Player of the Year by the conference coaches ... Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) continues its tear behind stout defense and 27.2 points per game from junior Antoinette Bannister. The Lions are perfect the last three months of the season. ... Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) freshman guard Taryn Griffey stands just 5 feet 5, but in the 6A state championship game against the defending champs, Lake Mary (Lake Mary, Fla.), Griffey went off for 19 points and 10 rebounds. The result, a one-point victory for Dr. Phillips, a state title and reentry into the FAB 50.
-- Chris Hansen
Take a good look at this week's Powerade Fab 50 rankings for girls'
basketball. Especially the tip top. They may not look the same again.
This week, there's a new No. 2. There probably will be again next week. In
true musical chairs fashion, last week's No. 2, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach,
Calif.) lost in the Southern Sectional quarterfinals to Santa Monica (Santa
Monica, Calif.). That makes Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) the new No. 2. If
the stars align on Tuesday night, Mater Dei will meet arch-rival Brea Olinda
(Brea, Calif.), No. 1 since the end of December, for the Southern Sectional
championship on Friday. The winner of that game will be No. 1 in next week's
Fab 50. The loser may tumble a few spots, meaning Potter's House Christian
(Jacksonville, Fla.) could be next week's new No. 2.
We elevated Potter's House over now-No. 4 Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, Ill.)
because Potter's wins the "eye test" in our opinion. The Lady Lions haven't
played a schedule like, say, No. 7 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.),
but they've played everyone they could and have beaten aforementioned
Riverdale Baptist, among others. Besides, Bolingbrook can make another run
at the penthouse with an impressive victory over No. 10 Whitney Young
(Chicago, Ill.) in the Illinois 4A semifinal on Friday, followed by the
Raiders' third straight state title on Saturday.
In a topsy turvy week, Princess Anne (Virginia Beach, Va.) jumped into the
top 10 at No. 5 after a victory over then-No. 7 Lake Taylor (Norfolk, Va.).
We also welcomed the following into the Fab 50: No. 43 Alief Elsik (Houston,
Texas), which toppled North Shore (Houston, Texas), which had toppled
previously No. 31 Cypress Falls (Houston, Texas), and around and around
Houston goes; No. 47 Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.), which just claimed the
Florida Class 6A title, and No. 50 Canyon (Canyon, Texas), which improved to
Alas, we bid adieu to previous No. 45 Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.),
which lost to Minnetonka (Minnetonka, Minn.); No. 47 Holy Cross (Kensington,
Md.), which suffered its sixth loss, and No. 49 Lake Mary (Lake Mary, Fla.),
which lost to Dr. Phillips in the Florida 6A championship.
-- Glenn Nelson
Records are through Feb. 28, 2011 games, where reported.
* denotes a team's season has ended.
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ESPN HOOPGURLZ HS RANKINGS PANEL
Lisa Bodine is a national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. A native of Queens, N.Y., she began her coaching career in 1993 with the NY Gazelles, has coached with D.C.-based Team Unique, and in 2009 she was named DAC Co-Coach of the Year after leading Wakefield Country Day School in Flint Hill, Va., to its first-ever conference title. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.
Mark Lewis is the national recruiting coordinator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He 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 Parade All-American Selection Committee, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.