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No. 20 North Central (IN), No. 24 Archbishop Wood (PA) slide into Blue Star Media Elite 25 girls’ rankings; Florida, Indiana embark on playoffs

Girls Elite 25

BENSALEM, Pa. – It was a tough week for two teams in the DMV. Bad results mean two teams from Indiana and Pennsylvania replace them, with one returning to the Blue Star Media Elite 25 girls’ basketball rankings.

Less than two weeks ago, No. 20 North Central, a power program from Indianapolis, beat No. 23 Newark (Ohio) in an interstate battle by two points, but there wasn’t room in the Elite 25 for the Hoosier State squad. Now Indiana’s top-ranked Class 4A team is back after securing an Elite 25 preseason ranking. The Panthers (21-2) open the sectional playoffs at home Wednesday and look get a reprieve in the state playoffs.

No. 24 Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.), the favorite to capture the Philadelphia Catholic League title and Pennsylvania’s top team, moves in from the East Region High Five rankings. The Vikings are poised with great coaching and two major Division I talents, Kaitlyn Orihel and junior Ryanne Allen, featured.

The door closed, at least temporarily for Maryland schools, Bishop McNamara (Forestville) and New Hope Academy (Landover Hills). McNamara, the defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title holders, lost on opening day while New Hope Academy dropped a third game.

Good news nationally is Alaska, Colorado and New Jersey are back in business. That affects three teams from the Elite 25. This week games in New Jersey likely will be rescheduled or canceled due to a nor’easter that walloped the tri-state area on Feb. 1. Reports out of the District of Columbia have the season canceled over COVID-19 concerns. Unless that changes, teams from Washington, D.C., will be removed from the Elite 25 and High Five Region rankings. We don’t take this situation lightly but other teams need to be recognized. New York was allowed to open practice this week.

Illinois will conduct a basketball season with no postseason and will last through March 13 it was announced on Jan. 27. Teams must hold seven practices and can play unlimited games until the end of the truncated term. All 11 regions have moved out of the most restrictive measures and into Phase 3. Expect games to start next week in most regions. Chicago is still in question.

With seasons finally on the go, Florida and Indiana are nearing the end. Playoffs started this week in both states. Soon most of the Southern states will follow suit and then the Midwest, creating a domino effect with state champions crowned. Additionally, teams will be vying for the four coveted slots at the GEICO Nationals girls’ tournament. Still no word if the event will be staged or the venue. We’ll be monitoring it in the coming weeks. No. 1 Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Fla.) and No. 3 Westlake (Atlanta) are favored to get nods provided they win state championships.

The Blue Star Media Elite 25 girls’ rankings will return on Feb. 10.

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

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

Blue Star Media Elite 25 Girls’ Basketball rankings, Feb. 3, 2021

1. Lake Highland Prep, Orlando, Fla. (12-0)

Previous rank: 1.

The Low-down: The Highlanders last played on Jan. 6, but last Friday they returned to the hardwood and appeared ready for the postseason when they beat Colonial (Orlando), 59-36.

Next is the District 7-4A tournament semifinals are Wednesday at Umatilla. The top-seeded Highlanders meet Mount Dora or Tavares, with that winner advancing to the district final on Friday.

2. Mount Notre Dame, Cincinnati (19-0)

Previous: 2.

The Low-down: The Cougars clinched another Girls Greater Cincinnati League with a sparkling 8-0 mark. The regular season concludes across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky at Notre Dame Academy (Park Hills, Ky.) Saturday afternoon.

3. Westlake, Atlanta (14-0)

Previous: 3.

The Low-down: The Lions aren’t letting up with one regular season contest left on the slate. Last week, they walloped Langston Hughes (Fairburn, Ga.), 89-52, and Morrow, 85-18, to remain perfect in region action.

4. Cypress Creek, Houston (23-0)

Previous: 4.

The Low-down: The backcourt of Rori Harmon and Kyndall Hunter are off to Texas but need two more wins this week to record back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. However, their legacy won’t be complete unless the Lady Cougars hang a UIL Class 6A state championship banner.

5. DeSoto, Texas (20-1)

Previous: 11.

The Low-down: Defense played a central role in two games, allowing just 27 points. The Eagles

blew out Waco, 72-7, and Mansfield, 45-20. The regular season finishes up at Midway (Waco) Saturday and after that it’s a Class 6A bi-district playoff game.

6. Hopkins, Minnetonka, Minn. (5-0)

Previous: 6.

The Low-down: The Lady Royals won two games—one by razor’s edge margin. Sophomores Nu Nu Agara netted a season-high 22 points and Taylor Woodson added 20 during a 79-28 win over Edina. Amaya Battle and Woodson scored 14 points apiece when the Lady Royals rallied from 13 points down at halftime for a 63-62 victory over Minnetonka. Trailing 39-26 at the break, the coach Tara Starks’ club showed resolve to complete the comeback.

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

Previous: 7.

The Low-down: The Lancers open the season vs. Shore Conference rival Rumson (N.J.)-Fair Haven Wednesday.

8. Simeon, Chicago (0-0)

Previous: 8.

The Low-down: Idle. Illinois schools await the start of the basketball seasons. The Wolverines are the defending Illinois Class 3A champions.

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

Previous: 9.

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: 10.

The Low-down: Coach Delaney Rudd admits it’s tough scheduling games but he manages to find high school turned club teams to keep busy. Last weekend, the Lions won two games against clubs.

11. Renaissance, Detroit (0-0)

Previous: 11.

The Low-down: Idle. Michigan will get underway later this month.

12. Incarnate Word Academy, Bel Nor, Mo. (16-0)

Previous: 12.

The Low-down: Saniah Taylor bucketed a game-high 31 points, sinking 4-of-6 3-pointers and the Red Knights rallied to beat Vashon (St. Louis), 75-72. Also crushed Cape Notre Dame (Cape Girardeau, Mo.), 66-43.

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

Previous: 13.

The Low-down: Defeated Father Ryan (Nashville), 53-23, and Pope John Paul II (Hendersonville), 71-39, in Division II, Class AA Middle Region action. Two weeks are left in the regular season.

14. Hazel Green, Ala. (28-1)

Previous: 14.

The Low-down: The regular season concluded Tuesday with Buckhorn (New Market). In last week’s lone game, the Lady Trojans trounced Spain Park (Hoover), 58-23.

15. Montverde (Fla.) Academy (19-1)

Previous: 15.

The Low-down: Marianna Valenzuela, a Florida State recruit, had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists in a 76-66 win over Winter Haven.

16. Hoover, Ala. (25-1)

Previous: 16.

The Low-down: The Lady Bucs closed out Area play with a convincing 50-19 win over Tuscaloosa County (Northport) as Lina Louchis scored 14 points. Reniya Kelly popped in 16 points and Kristen McMillan added 14 in an 81-21 win over Thompson (Alabaster). The regular season finale is Friday with crosstown rival Spain Park.

17. Converse (Texas) Judson (19-1)

Previous: 17.

The Low-down: The Rockets took down Clemens (Schertz), 61-31, and South San Antonio, 93-58. The regular season wraps up with Smithson Valley (Spring Branch) Friday.

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

Previous: 19.

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

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

Previous: 20.

The Low-down: Idle. It appears there won’t be a winter season for all schools from the District of Columbia.

20. North Central, Indianapolis (21-2)

Previous: Not ranked.

The Low-down: Indiana’s top-ranked Class 4A team re-enters the Elite 25 rankings just in time for the sectional playoffs that tip off this week. The Panthers extended their win streak to 15 games, beating Warren Central (Indianapolis), 67-42, to clinch an unbeaten season in the Metropolitan Conference. They played Attucks (Indianapolis) in the Class 4A North Central Sectional first round Tuesday. That winner gets Lawrence Central (Indianapolis) Friday in the semifinals. The final is Saturday.

21. Rutgers Prep, Somerset, N.J. (2-0)

Previous: 22.

The Low-down: Villanova-bound Christina Dalce had 17 points and 9 rebounds in a 73-39 win over North Hunterdon (Annandale). Also beat Montgomery (Skillman), 83-19, as Dalce added a double-double, with 13 points and 11 boards.

22. Valor Christian, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (2-0)

Previous: 24.

The Low-down: The Eagles jumped to a 20-5 lead after one quarter en route to a 70-39 win over Mountain Vista (Highlands Ranch) to open the season. Montana-bound wing Haley Huard scored 20 points, including two 3-pointers, and grabbed 7 rebounds during a 65-52 quality win over state-ranked Highlands Ranch.

23. Newark, Ohio (18-1)

Previous: 24.

The Low-down: For the second time this season, the Wildcats knocked off talented Reynoldsburg, 46-41. With four games left in the regular season, the Wildcats are 7-0 in Ohio Capital Conference Buckeye Division play and in command to hand a banner.

24. Archbishop Wood, Warminster, Pa. (1-0)

Previous: Not ranked.

The Low-down: PG Kaitlyn Orihel, a Villanova signee, totaled 19 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals and 6-1 junior Ryanne Allen added 17 points and 9 boards as the Vikings rolled over Archbishop Carroll (Radnor), 63-41, in a Philadelphia Catholic League matchup.

25. Cardinal Newman, Columbia, S.C (11-1)

Previous: 25.

The Low-down: Mary Ashley Groot (25 points) and 6-3 junior Ashley Watkins combined to score 45 points in a 76-33 win over Trinity Collegiate (Darlington). Skyla Tuthill’s 15 points paced a balanced attack to hold off Hilton Head Christian Academy (Hilton Head Island), 68-48.

Dropped: No. 18 Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) and No. 21 New Hope Academy (Landover Hills, Md.).

High-Fives by Region

East

  1. Paul VI, Chantilly, Va. (7-0)
  2. Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, N.J. (2-0)
  3. North Allegheny, Wexford, Pa. (9-0)
  4. Princess Anne, Virginia Beach, Va. (3-0)
  5. Saddle River (N.J.) Day, (1-0)

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

 Midwest

  1. Edison Public Academy, Detroit (0-0)
  2. Pius X, Lincoln, Neb. (14-0)
  3. Millard South, Omaha, Neb. (15-1)
  4. Mason, Ohio (15-0)
  5. Crown Point, Ind. (18-1)

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

 Southland

  1. Duncanville, Texas (23-2)
  2. Norman, Okla. (10-0)
  3. Anderson County, Lawrenceburg, Ky. (11-0)
  4. Upperman Baxter, Tenn. (23-0)
  5. Blanche Ely, Pompano Beach, Fla. (15-1)

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

Far West

  1. Grandview, Aurora, Colo. (2-0)
  2. Fremont, Plain City, Utah (16-0)
  3. Valley Vista, Surprise, Ariz. (2-0)
  4. Herriman, Utah (14-1)
  5. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (15-1)

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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