CHICAGO, Ill.—Winning a Nike Nationals title has been hard enough over the years. Back to back? Well, that’s been unheard of. Add in the added additional focus, attention and challenge of the EYBL and the word “repeat” disappears from your vocabulary…unless you happen to be wearing the uniform of Team Elite. Wednesday’s convincing 67 – 49 over the All Iowa Attack provided the Georgia based club back to back championship banners and possibly the only legitimate right in club basketball to calling themselves elite.
Team Elite rolled through round one back in April with an unblemished record and suffered their only defeat of the Nike campaign to the Cal Stars in Indianapolis during second round of competition. Their success in the Windy City was impressive as they posted six wins by an average margin of 12.5 points with just one team (Boo Williams) coming within single digits when all was said and done.
Team Elite moved into the final Wednesday by way of the earlier mentioned game with Boo Williams early in the day. All Iowa punched their ticket to the finals Wednesday morning with a competitive win over the young upstart Philadelphia Belles. The Belles, who found their stride in Chicago, took out the favored and only undefeated team in Chicago, the Cal Stars during the first round of bracket play. It would end up being their only loss across Nike play albeit a costly one.
The championship game was anticlimactic to a degree as the defending champs jumped out quickly making their focus on more hardware apparent with a 19 – 16 margin after one period. An 18 to 6 second quarter made the remaining road uphill for the Attack who were looking at a 15 point deficit by the break. Caitlin Clark kept the Iowan’s in the mix with a 14 point effort across the first two periods. Robyn Benton led Team Elite in the first half with 11 while Kaila Hubbard added 8 more.
The gap was cut by two in the third but AIA couldn’t get over the hump across the final period to make it even a one or two possession game. The subs took the floor for the final minute of play and the Team Elite players and coaches sprinted to the bleachers to celebrate with their fans when the final horn sounded.
Benton led the way in the win with 18 while dynamic forward Victaria Saxton contributed 17 points and 7 rebounds. Hubbard finished with 10 to go with six rebounds and five assists.
Clark paced All Iowa in the loss with 24 while teammate Ashley Joens contributed 10 more.
The EYBL Junior Division came down to a Virginia standoff as the Fairfax Stars and Boo Williams went head to head for top honors among the younger Nike teams. Azzi Fudd continued her impressive summer posting 26 points leading Fairfax to a 57 – 34 win. Jada Walker had 10 for Boo Williams in the loss. Fudd and Walker are both part of the eye catching 2021 graduating class.
This was the first year Nike Nationals and the EYBL have been part of the Tournament of Champions in Chicago. The move from Augusta combined with the well established TOC to create a setting for over 700 teams and a “mecca” for college recruiters. Blue Star Nationals also made the move north and offered a second setting just minutes away. Blue Star Media will have additional coverage from all the action in Chicago as well as other events across the country. Check back often to see the latest updates, evaluations and images.
Below are images and combined season stats for all 32 teams in the EYBL. For more information on the Nike EYBL follow the link below.