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The top players in the country battle it out in the 2012 McDonald's All-American game in Chicago, Illinois.
CHICAGO, IL -- It's not as though Baylor women's basketball needs a whole lot of help in the post right now, with National Player of the Year candidate Brittney Griner holding down the fort, but Lady Bears coach Kim Mulkey and the team's fans should be pleased with the reinforcements who will be arriving over the summer. One top recruit, 6-2 forward Alexis Prince of Edgewater High School in Orlando, Fla., is en route to Waco, but stopped off along the way at the United Center in Chicago for long enough to collect MVP honors in Wednesday's 11th annual McDonald's All American High School Girls Game.
Prince led the East team to a 79-78 victory over the West with a team-high 15 points, to which she added nine rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in just 22 minutes on the court.
The East dominated the game's first half, running out to a lead of 16 points, but by game's end, the talent-loaded event was even closer than usual this year.
The West team, which still trailed, 31-40, at the half, tied the score at 50 on a layup by Morgan Tuck, a little more than six minutes into the second period. Tuck, who hails from Bolingbrook High School, in nearby Bolingbrook, Ill., had quite a local following on hand to cheer her on. The 6-2 forward who is headed to Connecticut next fall, was praised for her unselfishness play in the first period, but took on more of a scoring role in the second half at the behest of West coach Tonya Johnson (Zion-Benton High School, Zion, Ill.), finishing with 18 points, plus three boards, a block and a steal.
"It's like every coach's dream," to lead a team packed with players of Tuck's talent and character, said Johnson. "The kid plays so hard; she was a monster on the boards. … Morgan was showing how athletic she is, how strong she is getting up and down the floor."
McDonald's All American West team's #44 Morgan Tuck, left, and the East team's #30 Breanna Stewart battle for a loose ball in the second half of the 2012 McDonald's All American High School Basketball Game, Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago. (Photo by Henny Ray Abrams/McDonald's)
Tuck's 18 points moves her into a four-way tie -- alongside Skylar Diggins (East, 2009), Kayla Pedersen (West, 2007), and none other than Maya Moore (East, 2007) -- for ninth place in all-time scoring in a McDonald's All-American game.
But Tuck wasn't even the game's leading scorer.
That distinction went to the West's Nirra Fields, who finished with 20 points, three rebounds, a block and a steal, putting her into a two-way tie with Natasha Howard (East, 2010) for third-place in scoring in the McMcDonalds scoring record books.
Fields set another record simply by being there. She is the first Canadian player ever to make the McDonald's All-American roster. Fields is a native of LaSalle, a borough of Montreal, Canada, though she currently lists Los Angeles as her home away from home, where she resides with Laker's coach Mike Brown and his family while attending Orange County's Mater Dei High School. Next year she will take her speed, athleticism and basketball savvy to UCLA. As a youngster in Canada, members of the Canadian National Men's Team saw her playing in a rec league as a 12-year-old seventh-grader. They brought her to the attention of Team Canada, for which Fields has since played as a member of the Canadian U-16 and U-19 national teams.
Though Fields's family chose to bring her to the U.S. for high school, seeking out high-level coaches to improve her game, she is also emblematic of Canada's successful campaign to raise the level of Canadian women's basketball that has been a point of emphasis in recent years.
McDonald's All American West team's Nirra Fields, left, drives past the East team's Niya Johnson in the first half of the 2012 McDonald's All American High School Basketball Game, Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago. Fields, the first Canadian ever to be named to the distinguished roster, was also the game's high-scorer with 20 points (Photo by Henry Ray Abrams/McDonald's)
Despite the efforts of Tuck and Fields, the West was unable to completely seize the momentum and never led in the game. Instead, the West once again ran up a lead of as many as eight points at the 8:34 mark on a layup by Bria Holmes of Hamden, Connecticut's James E. Hillhouse High School. Holmes, who also finished in double digits (13 points, plus two boards, two steals & and one assist) in addition to a solid defensive effort that was not fully reflected in the box score, will join the Mountaineers of West Virginia over the summer.
But this time, the West kept things within striking distance, twice more tying the the score as the second half wound toward a dramatic finish. The final tie came with just 16 seconds remaining when West center Katie Collier knocked down two from the penalty stripe.
Those were Collier's only points of the night, but it would be wrong to conclude that her performance was anything but an inspiration. Collier, a senior at Seattle Christian, hails from Kent, Wash., and will be attending nearby University of Washington, a PAC-12 program on the rise since the arrival of former Xavier coach Kevin McDuff. Collier, the first McDonald's All-American ever to be signed by the Washington program, swatted down five blocks during her 19 minutes on the floor in the McDonald's All-American game to join Sara Hammond (East, 2011), Amber Henson (East 2011), Joslyn Tinkle (East 2009) and Amanda Thompson (West 2006) in what is now a five-way tie for third-place all-time for shots blocked in the McDonald's All-American game.
Collier doesn't take her opportunity to play college ball for granted. A little over a year ago she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and the prognosis was extremely poor. She didn't think she would be able to continue to play basketball at the high school level, let alone go on to college and play for a Division I NCAA program.
Subsequently, she underwent additional testing and received a revised diagnosis which was quite a bit better: Acute promyelocytic leukemia, a rare, but treatable, form of cancer of the blood. Collier began a course of chemotherapy, all the while continuing to serve as captain of the Seattle Christian Warriors, leading them to an 11-1 league record and deep into the playoffs behind a double-double average of 14.1 points and 11 boards, plus five blocks, per game.
Collier had her final round of chemo only three weeks before arriving in Chicago, thus making her shot blocking record and strong overall defensive performance all the more inspiring.
Katie Collier, a 6-3 center from Seattle Christian, Kent, Wash., battled her way back from a rare form of leukemia to become a McDonald's All-American, swatting down five blocks in an impressive defensive performance in the 11th annual McDonald's All-American High School Girls' Game on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in Chicago, Ill. (Photo by Henry Ray Abrams/McDonald's)
After Stewart had put the East up by five late in the game on a deep trey from the elbow, it was Collier who put the West in a position to win. With a little over a minute to go, Collier unselfishly kicked the ball out to 5-7 guard Moriah Jefferson, a home-schooler from Dallas, Texas who, like Stewart, is UConn-bound next year. Jefferson, who put up a full stat line of 10 points, four rebounds and two steals, drained a three-pointer to cut the deficit to two points and make it a one-possession game.
On the West's next possession, Tuck, who netted eight of her 12 shot attempts in the game, drove for what would have been the game-tying lay-up, but suffered one of her few misses of the night. With 18 seconds left, Collier recovered the offensive board for the West but was fouled by Stewart seconds later. That's when Collier stepped to the line, and coolly knocked down both penalty shots to tie the score, 78-78, with only 16 seconds left to play. The East called an immediate time out, and Prince held for the game's final shot. But with two seconds left, the shot refused to go in.
As Collier wrestled for the rebound with the East's Bashaara Graves, the clock expired and both teams headed toward their benches to prepare for what everyone in the building seemed to think was the upcoming overtime -- the West ecstatic at the new-found life Collier's late-game heroics had breathed into their chances to pull out the win; the East more subdued, regretful to have let a sizable lead slip away from them, but determined to get it all back in the extra minutes.
But a late whistle called the players back to the floor, the officials ruling that Collier had gotten a piece of Graves' arm in the battle for the loose ball. The late call drew audible booing from the crowd who wanted to see the game go to overtime.
The foul call put the West over the limit, sending the Tennessee-bound Graves, a 6-2 forward from Clarksville, Tenn., to the line. With everyone thinking that time had already expired as the game clock indicated, players on both teams stood scattered around the floor, with no one from either team taking her position along the key to rebound, and simply watched to see whether Graves, standing alone at the line, would sink the front end of the one-and-one. Her shot sliced the nets, with what would ultimately prove to be the game-winning free throw making it 79-78 in favor of the East.
Once again, with the clock still showing 0:00, the players, thinking the game was over, headed for their respective benches, the moods of the two teams now reversed but all still in good spirits. And once again, they were summoned back onto the court, as the officials figured out that there couldn't have been a common foul had there actually been no time remaining when the contact occurred. Three-tenths of a second were placed back on the clock. However, despite their recognition of their initial error, the officials did not require Graves to take her first penalty shot over with her opponents in their proper places along the line.
Instead, both sides lined up for Graves's second free-throw. This time, Graves missed, but it didn't matter, as Prince grabbed the offensive board for the East and time, finally, did run out on the game.
Afterward, there were differences of opinion about the final call, but no hard feelings from the players and coaches on either side, all of whom seemed to take the end-game confusion with good humor.
Asked if she thought she had been fouled on the play, Graves flashed a huge smile before answering, "Was I fouled? Oh, yes."
"I was a little surprised they called it," Graves, who in addition to knocking down the game-winning free throw, notched a game-high 12 rebounds to tie Kayla Pedersen (West, 2008), Courtney Paris (West, 2005) and Seimone Augustus (East, 2002) for third in all-time McDonald's Game rebounding, later conceded to reporters. "It was pretty questionable."
Her teammate, Prince said she was happy with the win, but had been enjoying herself so much, she wished the game could have gone to overtime so they could continue to play.
Collier said she thought it should have been ruled a held ball, and she too wished they could have played on. West coach Johnson enthusiastically agreed.
East Coach Anne Long, of Spring Valley High School, Columbia, So. Car., said she'd take the win over extra minutes any day.
Brianna Stewart (No. 30) won the girls' competition in the Powerade Jam Fest held in connection with the McDonald's All-American festivities. The East Team worked on the move in practice in hopes of throwing down in the Girls' All-American game, according to their coach, Anne Long, but couldn't pull one off because, said Long, the West team was "too well-coached." (Photo by Henry Ray Abrams/McDonald's.)
Long's one regret -- they hadn't been able to get a dunk off in the game. Two days earlier, the East's Brianna Stewart, who had previously been named the 2012 Morgan Wooten Award as the McDonald's All-American National Player of the Year, had won the girls' competition of the Powerade Jam Fest held in conjunction with the McDonald's All-American Game, advancing to the co-ed finals with a perfect score of 140 from the judges in the opening round, where she ignited the crowd with a two-handed alley-oop for her opener and a less sensational, but still well-executed, one-handed alley-oop for her second effort.
The Connecticut-bound Stewart, who scored all of her nine points (to go with six rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal) in the second half, seven of them coming late in the game to help stave off the West's rally, advanced to the co-ed final, where she successfully dunked again, though she ultimately lost out to a monster slam from the McDonald's Boys' Wooden Award winner Shabbaz Muhammad.
McDonald's All American Alexis Prince (Edgewater High School, Orlando, Fla.), left, accepts the John R. Wooden MVP Award from Wooden's daughter, Nan, center, and Morgan Wootten after Prince led the East team to a 79-78 win over the West in in the 2012 McDonald's All American High School Basketball Game, Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago. The Games benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities. (Photo by Henny Ray Abrams/McDonald's.)
Other Skills Competition Winners
Jordan Jones, a 5-6 guard from DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Tex., who played for the West and will be headed to Texas A&M next season, dominated the skills competition in the Monday night McDonald's Jam Fest, not only winning the girls' side but also beating out the boys' winner, Tyler Lewis, of Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va., for overall honors. Jones's speed was impressive, as she traversed a course of passing, shooting and dribbling obstacles in record time.
Actually, all three girls who advanced to the finals beat out Mr. Lewis. Duke commit Alexis Jones (MacArthur High School, Irving, Tex.) was the first to outpace the boys' skills champ, but her time was surpassed by Niya Johnson (P.K. Yonge, Gainesville, Fla.,) who will join Prince at Baylor next year, before Jordan Jones beat out all three.
Morgan Tuck took top honors on the girls' side of the three-point shooting contest to advance to the final, where she held the boys' winner, Rasheed Sulaimon's (Strake Jesuit, Houston, Tex.) feet to the fire, before falling to second place when her final shot fell off the rim.
- Breanna Stewart Named 2012 McDonald's All American National Player of the Year
- Expectations increase for those named a McDonald's All-American
- For Bashaara Graves, being named a McDonald's All-American means a marquee matchup