GILBERT, Ariz.—The history speaks for itself. National champions, State champs, Olympic medalists, WNBA rosters and most importantly countless college scholarships and degrees. The lineage of the Nike Tournament of Champions is without peer.. However, every once in a while, it’s simply about the basketball. The past, both long term and even just a day or two ago, must occasionally take a backseat to what’s in front of us right now. Friday was, as all championship days are, one of those special moments.
The 21st annual Nike Tournament of Champions wrapped up over 160 games and five division championships Friday in Gilbert to add another page to the storied timeline of scholastic basketball’s highest regarded event.
Blue Star Media has been in the Valley of the Sun from the first tip and was still courtside when the final buzzer sounded. Below you’ll find links to our coverage from days one, two and three as well as another that will take you to the complete brackets and results from this year’s TOC.
JOE SMITH DIVISION
While all the teams were in action once again Friday, it was those championship bouts that held our attention. Over the years, the depth of talent in any event is going to fluctuate. However, one thing you can always count on at the TOC is that the elite are going to be just that…elite. When you’re looking at a Joe Smith Division final that features Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) and St. Mary’s (Calif.) you know you’ve walked into the right gym.
Mitty went through St. John’s College (D.C.) and Riverdale (Tenn.) in rounds two and three to get to the final. St. Mary’s got past Mesquite (Ariz.) and Riverdale Baptist (Md.) in their quarter and semifinal games to set up a Northern California showdown in the desert. Both teams were tight out of the gate and first quarter scoring was limited. An inbound lob on a baseline play to Aquira DeCosta made it 11 – 7 in favor of the Rams after the first period. St. Mary’s extended their lead to as much as eight in the second only to see Mitty tie it at the halftime buzzer on their own last second three pointer by Krissy Miyahara knotting things up at 25. The Monarchs kept the momentum up into the third as they held a six point margin at several points before St. Mary’s found their rhythm once again and tied things back up at 37 with one quarter remaining. The final period featured more of the same back and forth before Haley Jones, the eventual Smith Division MVP, went on an eight point run to turn the tide back Mitty’s way. Her three pointer at the 2:20 mark knotted the score at 46 which, following a defensive stop, was followed by a second three that put the Monarchs up 49 – 46. For good measure she added another bucket with 1:42 remaining making it an eight point run over just 38 seconds. Teammate Nicole Blakes got a put back at the 1:01 mark to keep the lead at five before Jones stepped up again going 4 for 4 from the line to seal the seven point win at 57 – 50.
Jones, who struggled early, led the way with 19 points, 14 coming in the second half. Blakes added 20 more including eight in the third quarter alone. DeCosta did her share for the Rams posting 24 in the loss. She got help from Neenah Young’s 10 points and 8 more from Ariel Johnson.
JOE SMITH DIVISION ALL-STAR TEAM
Brinae Alexander 5-9 2018 Riverdale High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Nicole Blakes 6-2 2018 Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.)
Aquira Decosta 6-2 2018 St. Mary’s High School (Stockton, Calif.)
Justice Ethridge 5-8 2018 Centennial High School (Las Vegas, NV)
Shaylee Gonzales 5-10 2018 Mesquite High School (Gilbert, Ariz.)
Ariel Johnson 5-8 2018 St. Mary’s High School (Stockton, Calif.)
Haley Jones (MVP) 6-1 2019 Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, Calif.)
Yo’myris Morris 6-2 2018 North Little Rock High School (Little Rock, AR)
Makayla Pippin 6-0 2018 Rock Creek Christian Academy (District Heights, Md.)
Erin Toller 5-6 2020 Sacred Heart Academy (Louisville, KY)
Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo 6-3 2019 St. John’s College High School (Washington, D.C.)
JOHN ANDERSON DIVISION
The Anderson Division final was one of those games that make you glad you stuck around until the end. Roland Park (Md.) and Omaha Westside (NE) went at it from start to finish with neither holding a substantial upper hand at any point in the contest. The Reds made their way to the final by way of a nine point win over New Hope Academy while Westside rallied from a 20 – 4 first quarter deficit to get past St. Francis 56 – 44. Both teams exemplify patient, textbook basketball. After the first period things were tied up at 15. The second quarter did little to settle the matter as Roland Park took a 30 – 29 edge into the locker room at the half. Westside got the upper hand in the third holding a “massive” 44 – 42 lead entering the final period. It was the fourth where things really started to get interesting. The Warriors slipped behind by five at the six-minute mark before rallying to take the lead back with 3:09 to go. The Reds responded but so did Westside and going into the last minute we were looking at a one point game with Roland Park holding a 57 – 56 lead. Jasmine McGinnis-Taylor went up strong to give the Warriors a one point lead (58 – 57) with just 32 seconds on the clock. Undaunted, the Red’s Aniyah Carpenter responded calmly drilling a jumper with 10 seconds remaining to regain the lead and claim the crown 60 – 58.
Carpenter and teammate Ja’ Niah Henson both had 13 in the win for Roland Park while Anderson MVP Mir McLean and Rain Green added 9 each. For Westside Quinn Weidemann had 15. Ryley Nolin added 12 more while McGinnis-Taylor and Ella Wedergren each finished with 10.
JOHN ANDERSON DIVISION ALL-STAR TEAM
Rachel Balzer 5-10 2019 Germantown Academy (Fort Washington, Pa.)
Aicha Coulibaly 6-1 2020 New Hope Academy (Landover Hills, Md.)
Makayla Edwards 5-10 2019 Salesian High School (Richmond, Calif.)
Ayana Emmanuel 5-8 2018 Dillard High School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Emily Engstler 6-2 2018 St. Francis Preparatory (Fresh Meadows, N.Y.)
Ja’Niah Henson 5-3 2019 Roland Park Country School (Baltimore, Md.)
Jasmine McGinnis-Taylor 6-1 2020 Omaha Westside (Omaha, NE)
Mir McLean (MVP) 5-11 2020 Roland Park Country School (Baltimore, Md.)
Zaniya Nelson 5-10 2020 Putnam City West (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
Bri Tolle 5-10 2018 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
Quinn Weidemann 5-9 2018 Omaha Westside (Omaha, NE)
MIKE DESPER DIVISION
The Mike Desper Division added some local flavor to the day’s agenda as Gilbert High School (Ariz.) moved into the final to face Clovis West out of central California. Gilbert made their way to the championship game by way of an exciting comeback, one point win over Sacred Heart Cathedral on Thursday. Clovis West had an easier time with an 81 – 58 win over Lake Highland Prep. Friday neither team was sharp out of the gate with some cold shooting and turnovers highlighting the first period that saw Gilbert take a 12 – 11 at the end of eight minutes. The Tigers came out on fire in the second extending their lead to eight in less than a minute. The Golden Eagles continued their frosty shooting and before the horn sounded for the half found themselves in a deep 35 – 14 hole. Haley Cavinder paced the scoring in the period for Gilbert knocking down three long balls in the process. Cavinder continued her run in the third with three more from deep but Madison Campbell began to warm up for Clovis West as she and her teammates finally cut into the margin and trailed 51 – 35 after three. The final period saw Clovis West get to the gap to 16 time and again before finally breaking through and cutting it to 11 at the 2:05 mark. It was 10 at the 1:35 point, 8 with 1:30 to go and 9 with just 22 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for Campbell and her teammates time ran out on them and Gilbert kept the Desper hardware right here in town by way of the 70 – 62 win.
Cavinder’s six three pointers helped her to a 25 point total in the win. Interior teammate Brynn Wade had a double-double of 11 points and 21 board to aid the cause. Cavinder’s sister Hanna chipped in 10 more as did Leah Millman. Once Campbell got going for Clovis West she finished with a game high 32 points, 22 coming in the second half. Ari’yanna Sanders added 15 more in the loss, all in the second half.
DERRIL KIPP DIVISION
The Derril Kipp Division went to Granada Hills Charter School (Calif.) as they edged Horizon (Colo.) 53 – 47. They won their four games over the course of the TOC by an average or 12.25 points. Emily Mitchell led them in the final with 14 points while Sarah Miranda chipped in 12 of her own. Horizon got 18 from Aly Jimenez in the loss.
DAN WILEY DIVISION
In the Dan Wiley bracket Canyon (Calif.) got by Corona Centennial (Calif.) 53 – 40 to claim top honors. The championship game was their only margin of victory in double figures as they squeaked by their first three opponents by 8, 9 and 4 respectively. In the win, Talia Taufassau posted 25 points for the Cowboys. The Wolves got an 11 point effort from Jayda Curry.