Photo Caption: Elizabeth Williams, left, of the McDonald's All-American East Team, scores two of her record-breaking 23 points (to go with 11 rebounds and two blocks), as the West Team's Krystal Forthan (right) defends, during the first half of the McDonald's All-American Girls' High School Basketball Game, on Wednesday, March 30, 2011, in Chicago, Illinois. The East won, 78-66. (Photo Credit: Courtesy McDonald's/ Henny Ray Abrams)

Young Stars Shine at McDonald's All-American Girls' Game

March 30, 2011 - 10:14pm

While women's collegiate basketball took a break before the Final Four tips off this weekend (well, all of the collegians except the four teams -- Toledo, USC, Charlotte and Illinois State -- who were battling it out in the postseason WNIT), the best of the future generation took the stage Wednesday night in Chicago's United Center.

The East and West team rosters for the McDonald's All-American Girls' Game looked like a Who's Who of the elite recruits from the high school class of 2011. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Mater Dei High School, CA), Justine Hartman (Brea-Olinda High School, CA), Krystal Forthan (Georgetown High School, TX) and Brianna Banks (Fayette County High School, GA) headlined the West Team, while the East featured such prep stars as Elizabeth Williams (Princess Anne High School, VA), Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook High School, IL), Cierra Burdick (Butler High School, NC), Amber Henson (Sickles High School, FL), and Bria Smith (Christ the King High School, NY). To stop there seems almost unfair, as the talent on the two squads ran 12 deep.

The setting for the event was awe-inspiring as the names of male and female basketball greats from the 34-year history of the event circling the arena in lights. The 20,000-seat United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls, was standing room only, with 20,019 tickets sold and scalpers doing a lucrative business outside the arena. Regrettably, many fans shorted themselves by showing up only for the McDonald's All American Boys' Game, which tipped off immediately after the Girls' Game was over. Still, the arena was roughly one-third full when the Girls' Game got underway, and gradually reached approximately two-thirds capacity as the second half wound down.

No matter to the 24 young Girls' All Americans on the floor, who played their hearts out to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, who plan to use the proceeds of the event to build the largest Ronald McDonald House in the country to serve children and families in need.

In the end, despite the wealth of talent on the West squad, the East gave them a good-spirited schooling, winning the contest, 78-66. Exactly why is hard to say, but a lot had to do with Ms. Elizabeth Williams.

Williams, a 6-3 post who will attend Duke University next fall, already had a bit of McDonald's hardware on hand before the game started, having been chosen as the Morgan Wooten National Player of the Year, an award bestowed on the basis of excellence on and off the court that takes into account not only the athlete's skill set and achievements, but also their academic accomplishments and commitment to community service.

But when Williams took the floor on Wednesday night, she proved that she deserved not only that award, but anything else the McDonald's staff had on hand. As it was, she was the hands-down selection for the John R. Wooden Most Valuable Player Award, after turning in a record-breaking 23 points, 11 rebounds, an assist, a steal and two blocks in her 19 minutes on the court.

Her 23 points set a McDonald's All-American Girls' Game record, that Williams almost missed the chance to make. East Coach Mary Coyle Klinger (Rutgers Preparatory School, Somerset, NJ) had already retired Williams and her fellow starters to the sidelines to loud applause late in the game, when Bria Smith (who has a future as a statistician) told her teammates and coach that Williams was just one point off the all-time scoring record set by Alexis Hornbuckle in 2004.

Coyle sent Williams back out to the floor for a chance to break the record. The first few plays run for her were broken up, but with 42 seconds left, Williams dropped in a lay-up off an assist by Bria Goss (Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis, IN) to set the score at 78-65 East and inscribe her name in the McDonald's All-American history books.

Photo Caption: Elizabeth Williams (center) receives the John R. Wooden MVP Award from Wooden's daughter Nan (left) and Coach Morgan Wootten. Both Coach Wooden and Coach Wootten were involved in the McDonald's All-American Games since their inception in 1978. The first girls' game took place in 2002 in Madison Square Garden.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

Joanne P. McCallie should be counting the days until Williams shows up on campus. The first thing you notice about Williams is her obvious love for the game; she wears a constant smile both on the court while playing and off the court when talking about basketball. The second thing you notice about her is an unusual speed for her size and post position. Williams comes by it honestly, lettering in both basketball and track, where she competes in the 400-meter dash and the high jump.

Known for her shot-blocking ability, Williams attributes her skill not just to her size but to her sense of timing, and says she loves to block shots because of the morale boost it gives to her and her teammates. Speaking of shot-blocking, the East had plenty of it, as 6-2 forward Sara Hammond (Rockcastle County High School, KY; committed to Louisville) and 6-4 center Amber Henson (Sickles High School, FL; committed to Duke) swatted down five apiece, while the team as a whole combined for 15 blocks.

Williams likes to play defense in general, which was one earmark of this particular McDonald's game. Let's face it: While these sorts of honorary games are great stages for basketball talent, they usually aren't the place to go if you want to take in a great basketball game. With quickly thrown together squads that have little time to practice, these events are often marked by a lack of timing, sloppy and mistimed passing, a whole lot of turnovers, a bunch of silly fouls (though it seems like refs are often told to swallow their whistles and let the kids play), some occasional grandstanding and usually a dearth -- if not a total absence -- of defense.

There was plenty of some of the former, but none of the last, on Wednesday night, as both teams, but the East in particular, defended vigorously. The East won the battle of the boards, but not by much -- 59-52.

If anyone on the floor came close to rivaling Williams as the event's most outstanding player, it was Tennessee-bound Ariel Massengale, also playing for the East. Massengale did not fill quite as gaudy a stat line as Williams, but still finished with an impressive 13 points, four boards, and four assists (to three turnovers). But the box score doesn't tell the total story. Massengale is a pleasure to watch. Her speed, agility, ball-handling and ability to slice through traffic and to finish with either hand are remarkable for a player at this stage of her career. Several Williams buckets were the result of Massengale delivering the ball on the dime.

Photo Caption: The East's Ariel Massengale (Red, No. 1) heads to the hole, getting the step on the West's Brianna Banks (Black, No. 13) and Amber Orrange (Black No. 10; Westbury Christian High School, Houston, Texas; committed to Stanford).
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

Massengale had not heard Tennessee coach Pat Summitt's remarks on Monday, when frustrated and fresh from an Elite Eight defeat to third-seeded Notre Dame, Summitt addressed her struggles over the past few seasons to find the right fit at the point. Referring to Massengale, the Hall of Fame coach told America, We have one of the best point guards in the country coming in. I think that will help us quite a bit and hopefully she can show others how to play the game at the highest level.

When told of Summitt's praise, the modest Massengale blushed, hesitated a moment, and then said, "I'm so honored that she would say that. I'm just honored to have the opportunity to play for Tennessee, and hope I can help out in any way I can."

Another standout at the guard position was Bria Smith, a lively and personable young woman and a quick-handed defender who loves to penetrate hard to the rim. Smith had committed to Virginia, but withdrew her commitment after Deb Ryan stepped aside as head coach there; she is currently undecided, and anyone with a scholarship to give and a need in their backcourt should be hopping a plane to New York. Smith, who seems like the kind of player capable of fostering good chemistry on any team she plays with, had a solid night that included 10 points on four-of-eight from the floor, plus three rebounds and two assists, but four turnovers (again, nothing uncommon in an honorary game). In fact, the East as a team had 25 turnovers, to 16 for the West, with all hands displaying a willingness to dive to the floor after loose balls.

Photo Caption: The East's Bria Smith (Red, No. 3) breezes past the West's Alexyz Vaioletama (Black, No. 24; Mater Dei High School, California; committed to USC) on her way to the hoop.
Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

It was a tough night for the West, who despite its talent pool, couldn't seem to buy a bucket. Part of it was the East's defense -- and with 15 shots blocked, you have to know there were plenty more altered. Part might have been nerves, though not a few of these players have played on big stages before. As the gap in the scores got larger, quick triggers also contributed, as several players seemed to abandon fundamentals; some were so far from squared up that you knew before the shot was even launched that it was going to be well off the mark.

Photo Caption: The West's Amber Orrange (Black, No. 10; Westbury Christian High School, Houston, Tex.; committed to Stanford) drives the lane on a fast break as Ariel Massengale (Red, No. 3), Cierra Burdick (Red, No. 30), and Temi Fagbenle (Red, No. 14; Blair Academy, Blairstown, NJ; committed to Harvard) race to get back on defense.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

And part, perhaps, was just the basketball gods at work. In any event, the West shot a poor 28.9 percent (24-of-83) from the field, and a dreadful 17.4 percent (four-of-23) from the arc, to the East's 41 percent (32-of-78) from the floor and 43.8 percent (seven-of-16) from three-point range. Members of both squads, however, should put in a little time over the summer on the free-throw line, where the East knocked down just 63.6 percent (seven-of-11) of its shots, and the West hit an even worse 60.9 percent (14-of-23).

Despite their shooting woes, the West did have its standouts, chief among them Brianna Banks, a 5-9 guard who will be beefing up the Huskies' roster come November. Though Banks played her high school ball in Georgia, the McDonald's Selection Committee sometimes puts its thumb on the scales to balance out the squads in terms of strength and positions. Not that it helped that much on this night, but in any event, the Georgian ended up playing for the West, and they were glad to have her and her team-high 17 points and three steals.

Photo Caption: Briana Banks (Black, No. 13) soars for two of her team-high 17 points, as Ariel Massengale (Red, No. 1) and Betnijah Laney (Red, No. 44; Smyrna High School, Clayton, Del.; undecided) attempt to defend. Though Banks hails from Georgia, she played for the West, who had to have been happy to have her firepower. Banks, who will play next year for UConn, led the West Team Wednesday night, with 17 points, plus three steals.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

Banks's jump shot is a sight to behold. She has a lithe athleticism that allows her to twist and turn like a contortionist to create her shot, and an almost ballet-like grace to her jump shot.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the No. 1 recruit from the class of 2012, also did her part, with 12 points, though on just three-of-10 from the field, plus four rebounds in 20 minutes. Mosqueda-Lewis gets a day pass when the others are out practicing their foul-shots this summer. It wasn't easy to get to the line this night, with the officials, to their credit, largely letting them play, but four of her points came at the stripe, where she was a perfect four-for-four.

Photo Caption: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Black, No. 32) attempts to thread the needle between the East's Sara Hammond (Red, No. 00) and Elizabeth Williams (Red, No. 15). It was not the best night for the Connecticut commit, but Mosqueda-Lewis, who is widely regarded as the top recruit in this year's high school graduation class, still posted the best performance for the West by an actual Westerner, with 12 points, four boards, a block and a steal in 20 minutes.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

Kiah Stokes (Linn-Mar High School, IA) celebrated her birthday the night of the game, but wasn't spared the off-shooting night suffered by the West as a whole. Stokes, who is headed to UConn this fall, averages 25.3 points, 15.4 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game, but managed just one lonely foul shot on this evening, though she did contribute five boards.

Photo Caption: Connecticut-bound Kiah Stokes (Black, No. 40) attempts to drive by the East's Briyona Canty (Red, No. 10; Trenton Catholic Academy, NJ; committed to Rutgers). Stokes celebrated her birthday with five boards and a steal, but just one point, at the McDonald's All-American Girls' Game Wednesday.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

Six-three forward Reshanda Gray of Washington Prep in Los Angeles, California, also contributed heavily to the West on the boards though suffering a tough shooting night. The Cal-bound Gray yanked down seven off the glass, and grabbed two steals to go with five points.

Photo Caption: An irresistible force meets an immovable object as Reshanda Grey (Black, No. 21) gets a snoot-full of East center Amber Henson (Sickles High School, Tampa, FL; committed to Duke), with neither giving an inch.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

Asked why the East had so thoroughly dominated the West in this outing, Bria Smith laughed and chalked it up to her team's chemistry, then added, "And maybe they [the West] got a little bit cocky after yesterday's scrimmage." Everyone, even the West's Banks, shared a good laugh.

And speaking of chemistry, Tennessee-bound Cierra Burdick was announced as the winner of this year's Naismith Sportsmanship Award at halftime. The award, which is voted on by the players and coaches, goes to the player who exhibits the best sportsmanship during the week of the games. Asked why they had voted for Burdick, Williams cited her great attitude, all week, on and off the floor, and Smith noted Burdick's ability to build chemistry within her team. So Pat Summitt has yet another reason to look forward to autumn.

Photo Caption: Cierra Burdick (Red, No. 30) launches a mid-range jumper, while Morgan Jones (Black, No. 1) hurries to defend. Burdick took home the Naismith Sportsmanship Award -- the McDonald's All-American equivalent of Ms. Congeniality -- as teammates and coaches acknowledged her positive attitude throughout the week.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

In games like this, someone is always going to shine, while others, perhaps equally as talented, endure difficult -- or at least, less spectacular -- nights. All of these young women deserve to be recognized for achieving heights in being named to the McDonald's All-American Team, that others only aspire. In recognition of this fact, here are the complete East and West rosters. Full Court Press extends our congratulations to each of these talented young women.

Photo Caption: The fellow it's all for, Ronald McDonald, was on hand to take in the game. Over the years, the McDonald's All American Games have raised millions to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities in the communities where the games have been played.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson

Photo Caption: McDonald's All-American Reshanda Gray does arts and crafts with a new friend at the Ronald McDonald House as part of the Mcdonald's All-American High School Basketball Game week of activities. Each year, the All Americans visit the local Ronald McDonald House, which the games benefit.
Photo Credit: Courtesy McDonald's/Henny Ray Abrams

2011 McDonald's All American Girls' Game Rosters

Girls -- East Team
Player Position Height Weight High School (Hometown) College
Cierra Burdick F 6-2 170 Butler H.S., NC (Charlotte, NC) Tennessee
Briyona Canty G 5-10 150 Trenton Catholic Acad., NJ (Willingboro, NJ) Rutgers
Temi Fagbenle C 6-4 168 Blair Academy, NJ (Blairstown, NJ) Harvard
Bria Goss G 5-11 155 Ben Davis H.S., IN (Indianapolis, IN) Kentucky
Sara Hammond F 6-2 178 Rockcastle County H.S., KY (Mt. Vernon, KY) Louisville
Amber Henson C 6-4 180 Sickles H.S., FL (Tampa, FL) Duke
Betnijah Laney G 6-0 174 Smyrna, DE (Clayton, DE) Undecided
Samantha Logic G 6-0 155 Racine J.I. Case H.S., WI (Racine, WI) Iowa
Allyson Malott F 6-2 180 Madison H.S., OH (Middletown, OH) Dayton
Ariel Massengale G 5-6 152 Bolingbrook H.S., IL (Bolingbrook, IL) Tennessee
Bria Smith G 5-10 150 Christ the King H.S., NY (Massapequa, NY) Undecided
Elizabeth Williams F 6-3 198 Princes Anne H.S., VA (Virginia Beach, VA) Duke
Head Coach: Mary Coyle Klinger, Somerset, NJ (Rutgers Preparatory School)
Asst. Coach: Anthony Pappas, Waterloo, IA (Waterloo West High School)
Asst. Coach: Teri Morrison, Grapevine, TX (Southlake Carroll High School)

Girls -- West Team
Player Position Height Weight High School (Hometown) College
Brianna Banks G 5-9 145 Fayette County H.S., GA (Fayetteville, GA) Connecticut
Ariya Crook-Williams G 5-7 150 Long Beach Poly H.S., CA (Los Angeles, CA) USC
Krystal Forthan C 6-4 185 Georgetown H.S., TX (Georgetown, TX) LSU
Reshanda Gray F 6-3 180 Washington Prep, CA (Los Angeles, CA) California
Justine Hartman C 6-3 180 Brea Olinda H.S., CA (Whittier, CA) UCLA
Morgan Jones F 6-2 170 Lake Mary H.S., FL (Orlando, FL) Northwestern
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis G 6-0 175 Mater Dei H.S., CA (Anaheim, CA) Connecticut
Amber Orrange G 5-8 145 Westbury Christian H.S., TX (Houston, TX) Stanford
Cassie Peoples G 5-7 148 Cy-Fair H.S., TX (San Antonio, TX) Texas
Bonnie Samuelson F 6-3 155 Edison H.S., CA (Huntington Beach, CA) Stanford
Kiah Stokes F 6-3 180 Linn-Mar H.S., IA (Marion, IA) Connecticut
Alexyz Vaioletama G 6-0 178 Mater Dei H.S., CA (Fountain Valley, CA) USC
Head Coach: Dorothy Gaters, Chicago, IL (Marshall High School)
Asst. Coach: Gwen Howard, Chicago, IL (Marshall High School)
Asst. Coach: Courtney Hargrays, Chicago, IL (Marshall High School)