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No. 14 Hazel Green (AL) captures Alabama showdown, lands in Blue Star Media Elite 25 girls’ rankings; No. 5 DeSoto (TX) ascends six slots KO’ing district rivals

BENSALEM, Pa. – The shakeup in the Blue Star Media Elite 25 girls’ basketball rankings took on a ripple effect that started in Texas and Alabama and ultimately opened the door for a newcomer.

No. 14 Hazel Green (Ala.) is not a debutant historically in the Elite 25 girls’ rankings but for the first time this season it enters the rankings. The Trojans, No. 1 in Alabama’s Class 6A rankings, beat then-No. 5 and previously unbeaten Hoover by 20 points. The Trojans (27-1) fell to No. 13 Ensworth (Nashville, Tenn.) in December for their lone loss.

No. 16 Hoover, top-ranked in Alabama Class 7A, fell 11 spots but not out after its first loss.

In Texas, the District 11-6A crown is likely headed to No. 5 DeSoto. Last weekend, the short-handed Eagles toppled then-No. 16 Duncanville, 69-50, for the second time this season. Duncanville dropped from the Elite 25 and into the Southland Region, opening door for Hazel Green.

In all, 15 teams shifted spots in the Elite 25 rankings. No. 24 Newark (Ohio) dipped 12 slots after an intrastate two-point setback.

This week schools from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Colorado started playing.

There’s more good news out of the Empire State, where a season is taking shape.

 The New York State Public High School Athletic Association Inc., (NYSPHSAA) announced high risk sports have been authorized by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to begin practice and competition on Feb. 1 if permitted locally.

According to the NYSDOH release, “… participants in higher risk sports and recreation activities may partake in individual or distanced group training and organized no/low-contact group training and, further, may partake in other types of play, including competitions and tournaments, only as permitted by the respective local health authorities [i.e., county health departments].”

Last week, Illinois gave the okay to play high-risk sports, including basketball and football, in regions that reach Phase-4 of COVID-19 mitigations. The state will announce start dates this week. Football is slated to begin Feb. 15. At least it’s a possibility basketball will be played soon or perhaps in the spring. We’ll have the state’s recommendations next week.

Finally, we shift to Indiana, where the draw for the sectional playoffs in four classifications ( 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A) took place Sunday afternoon. Here’s the draw. Next week, Florida will start its district playoffs.

OK, that’s it for another week. Essentially, we’ll be in playoff mode inside two weeks. We already tipped you off to the Hoosier State and more will follow soon enough.

The Blue Star Media Elite 25 girls’ rankings will return on Feb. 3.

Check back regularly at www.bluestarmedia.org for our staff updates. We’ll keep you abreast of anything breaking in the girls’ hoop world. For now, stay safe.

Hope to see you at a game soon. – Christopher Lawlor

Blue Star Media Elite 25 Girls’ Basketball rankings, Jan. 27, 2021

1. Lake Highland Prep, Orlando, Fla. (11-0)

Previous rank: 1.

The Low-down: Idle. The Highlanders’ had four games canceled but finally returned earlier this week against Colonial (Orlando). The district tournament starts next week.

2. Mount Notre Dame, Cincinnati (16-0)

Previous: 2.

The Low-down: The Cougars stretched the win streak to an eye-popping 60 games, including postseason, after topping league rivals Mercy McAuley (Cincinnati), 73-40. The winning skein is Ohio girls’ basketball fourth longest all-time. Michigan-bound G Laila Phelia and junior G KK Bransford scored 18 points apiece for the Cougars.

3. Westlake, Atlanta (12-0)

Previous: 3.

The Low-down: Georgia’s three-time Class AAAAAAA defending champions won by 72 points in their lone game last week and are awaiting the postseason when the competition level is ratcheted up.

4. Cypress Creek, Houston (21-0)

Previous: 4.

The Low-down: The top-ranked Texas Class 6A team rolled to a pair of one-sided District 8-6A games. The regular season concludes in less than two weeks on Feb. 8 at Cy-Fair (Cypress).

5. DeSoto, Texas (18-1)

Previous: 11.

The Low-down: The Eagles essentially wrapped up the District 11-6A title over the weekend, completing a season sweep of defending Class 6A state champions and previous-No. 16 Duncanville, 69-60. Only four games remain in district play and DeSoto enjoys a two-game lead and the tiebreaker. Junior G Jiya Perry pumped in 17 points and the short-handed Eagles needed it. That’s because Texas Tech-bound Michayla Gatewood (knee) is out and junior G Ja’Mia Harris left early in the contest with an injury and did not return. Andrea Robinson did not coach for the fourth straight game for COVID-19 concerns.

6. Hopkins, Minnetonka, Minn. (3-0)

Previous: 13.

The Low-down: Junior C Maya Nnaji (25 points) and freshman G Liv McGill (18) combined to score 43 points and the Lady Royals trounced Wayzata (Plymouth), 102-52. The lopsided margin of victory continued in a 91-49 thrashing of St. Michael-Albertville.

7. St. John Vianney, Holmdel, N.J. (0-0)

Previous: 6.

The Low-down: The Lancers open the season versus Rumson (N.J.)-Fair Haven on Feb. 2.

8. Simeon, Chicago (0-0)

Previous: 7.

The Low-down: Idle. Illinois schools await the start of the basketball seasons, which will be announced this week. The Wolverines are the defending Illinois Class 3A champions.

9. Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (0-0)

Previous: 8.

The Low-down: The CIF-Southern Section Open Division champions won’t play until the spring but they are very good with Stanford-bound Brooke Demetre as the go-to player and likely McDonald’s All-American Game selection.

10. Winston Salem Christian, Winston-Salem, N.C. (21-0)

Previous: 9.

The Low-down: Freshman PG Avery Mills, a Division I prospect with several offers, tossed in 15 points during an 85-37 exhibition victory over North Carolina Good Better Best Academy. Mills played two years of high school ball near Albany, N.Y., before transferring to WSC in September.

11. Renaissance, Detroit (0-0)

Previous: 10.

The Low-down: Idle. Michigan has not determined a start date but it’s likely happening in early February.

12. Incarnate Word Academy, Bel Nor, Mo. (14-0)

Previous: 14.

The Low-down: Sophomore C Annie Potts recorded a double-double, 30 points and 12 rebounds, in a 74-41 win over Lift for Life (St. Louis). Junior Saniah Tyler’s 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including a trio of 3-pointers, helped down Westminster (Town & Country), 75-46.

13. Ensworth School, Nashville, Tenn. (11-0)

Previous: 21.

The Low-down: The Tigers defeated Baylor School (Chattanooga), 67-51, improving to 5-0 in region play.

14. Hazel Green, Ala. (27-1)

Previous: Not ranked.

The Low-down: For the foreseeable future, the debate over Alabama’s top team is over. The Trojans used a 21-5 second quarter run to put away then-No. 5 Hoover (Ala.), 65-45, in a battle of the state’s top two teams. The Trojans, No. 1 in Alabama’s Class 6A. Leah Brooks, who had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, netted 10 points in the second frame. Samiya Steele added 17 points and six assists.

15. Montverde (Fla.) Academy (17-1)

Previous: 15.

The Low-down: The Eagles swept two games at the Play4Kay Shootout last week. Mariana Valenzuela threw in 17 points during a 57-49 victory over Plant. Fatima Diakhate netted a team-high 10 in a 56-48 triumph over Jones (Orlando). Both players were named Rachel Walker Player of the Game for their efforts. Also beat Palm Bay (Melbourne), 59-50.

16. Hoover, Ala. (23-1)

Previous: 5.

The Low-down: Sophomore Reniya Kelly scored 23 points and Aniya Hubbard added 10 but the Lady Bucs were handed a 65-45 loss to No. 14 Hazel Green in a battle of Alabama’s top two teams. Hoover entered as the top-ranked Class 7A squad. The loss halted Hoover’s win streak to open the season at 23 games.

17. Converse (Texas) Judson (17-1)

Previous: 17.

The Low-down: The Rockets rebounded from a rare District 27-6A setback to trounce two opponents. Four games remain in the regular season.

18. Bishop McNamara, Forestville, Md. (0-0)

Previous: 18.

The Low-down: Idle. The schedule tips off Feb. 3.

19. Archbishop Mitty, San Jose, Calif. (0-0)

Previous: 19.

The Low-down: California Interscholastic Federation teams won’t start until the spring.

20. St. John’s College, Washington, D.C. (0-0)

Previous: 20.

The Low-down: Idle.

21. New Hope Academy, Landover Hills, Md. (5-2)

Previous: 22.

The Low-down: Idle. The Lady Tigers are on the prowl Thursday when they meet Paul VI (Chantilly, Va.) in a DMV showdown.

22. Rutgers Prep, Somerset, N.J. (0-0)

Previous: 23.

The Low-down: Idle. The Argonauts tip off at North Hunterdon (Annandale) Thursday.

23. Valor Christian, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (0-0)

Previous: 24.

The Low-down: Idle. The season tips off at Mountain Vista (Highlands Ranch) Friday.

24.  Newark, Ohio (16-1)

Previous: 12.

The Low-down: Upended on the road by Indiana powerhouse North Central (Indianapolis), 48-46. Also defeated Pickerington (Ohio) Central, 48-36, improving to 6-0 in the Ohio Capital Conference Buckeye Division. The Wildcats won’t be dropped for one loss but need to regain their momentum before the Ohio Division I playoffs.

25. Cardinal Newman, Columbia, S.C (8-1)

Previous: 25.

The Low-down: Defeated Augusta Christian (Martinez, Ga), 77-26, and Northwood Academy (Summerville, S.C.), 57-54.

Dropped: No. 16 Duncanville (Texas).

High-Fives by Region

East

  1. Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic (0-0)
  2. Archbishop Wood, Warminster, Pa. (0-0)
  3. Paul VI, Chantilly, Va. (5-0)
  4. Sidwell Friends, Washington, D.C. (0-0)
  5. North Allegheny, Wexford, Pa. (8-0)

Geography: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

 Midwest

  1. North Central, Indianapolis (19-2)
  2. Edison Public Academy, Detroit (0-0)
  3. Pius X, Lincoln, Neb. (12-0)
  4. Millard South, Omaha, Neb. (13-1)
  5. Crown Point, Ind. (17-1)….TU

Geography: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

 Southland

  1. Duncanville, Texas (21-2)
  2. Norman, Okla. (8-0)
  3. Blanche Ely, Pompano Beach, Fla. (11-0)
  4. Anderson County, Lawrenceburg, Ky. (9-0)
  5. Upperman Baxter, Tenn. (21-0)

Geography: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Far West

  1. Grandview, Aurora, Colo. (0-0)
  2. Fremont, Plain City, Utah (14-0)
  3. Valley Vista, Surprise, Ariz. (1-0)
  4. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (15-1)
  5. Herriman, Utah (12-1)

Geography: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Records are through Monday.

About: The Blue Star Media Elite 25 High School Girls Basketball Rankings are released weekly from November until the conclusion of the high school season nationwide. Criteria considered are the quality of the team and its players, strength of schedule, tradition, and quality of the team’s league, conference, region or district. The rankings are compiled by Blue Star Media’s Christopher Lawlor, who consults with a national network of coaches, talent evaluators and prep sports writers. Follow him on Twitter at @clawlor.

Senior Writer and national analyst for Blue Media and compiles the Blue Star Elite 25 national boys and girls high school basketball and football rankings during the season. Lawlor, an award-winning writer, is a voting committee member and advisor for several national high school events, including the McDonald’s All-American Games. He previously wrote for USA TODAY and ESPN.com, where he was the national preps writer, while compiling the national rankings in four sports.

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