Highlights from the championship game of the Naples Holiday Shootout. Hathaway Brown of Shaker Heights, Ohio takes on North Gwinnett of Suwanee, GA. Game features top players Lexie Brown, Peyton Whitted, Nia Marshall & Vanessa Smith.
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NAPLES, Fla. -- One thing was clear even before the opening tip: With defending champion Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.), the No. 2-ranked team in the nation, ousted in the semis, leaving No. 19 North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.) to face unranked Hathaway Brown (Shaker Heights, Ohio) in the title game, a new champion would be crowned Saturday at the 14th annual Naples Holiday Shootout.
This match-up proved to be a tale of two halves as the North Gwinnett Bulldogs rallied from 14 points down, knocking down 10 three-pointers in the game and shooting 93 percent from the free-throw line to defeat a very good Hathaway Brown squad, 57-50.
Hathaway Brown, the four-time defending state champions in Ohio, got an early jump on North Gwinnett with a strong pressure zone that limited the Bulldogs' ability to shoot and forced numerous turnovers.
The Blazers opened the game with a 7-0 run and were up 13-3 after a three-pointer by Beth Brzozowski with 1:47 remaining in the first. Less than a minute was left in the opening quarter when North Gwinnett star Lexie Brown, ranked 19th in the Full Court Fresh 50, finally connected on her first field goal of the game, a three-pointer; by then, her team was down 18-6.
In the second, the Bulldogs began digging their way out of the hole, beginning with two treys by Joshlyn Belcher, who finished with 17 points. Then at the four-minute mark, Brown hit back-to- back three-balls to slice the Blazers' lead to just one point. By then, the Bulldogs had clearly regained their confidence.
The two teams exchanged the lead several times over the course of the third period, but as the quarter expired, Belcher hit a three-quarter-court Hail Mary to beat the buzzer and put the Bulldogs up, 41-36.
Though Hathaway Brown threatened several times in the final stanza, North Gwinnett would never relinquish that lead. The Bulldogs kept the Blazers at bay with near-perfect marksmanship at the charity stripe down the stretch; for the game as a whole, North Gwinnett nailed 13 of their 14 free-throw attempts (92.9 percent). The Bulldogs, who outrebounded the Blazers, 30-26, also turned to a stalling offense for the final four minutes of the game to outsmart Hathaway Brown and take home the tournament championship.
Brown, who finished with 18 points, four assists, and four steals and was perfect from the free-throw line, was named the tournament MVP. North Gwinnett teammates Stephanie Amichia and Peyton Whitted joined Brown on the Full Court All-Tournament Team.
Vanessa Smith paced Hathaway Brown with 17 points, while Nia Marshall added 12; they, too, were honored with selection to the Full Court All-Tournament Team, which also featured the players listed below:
Lexie Brown – North Gwinnett
Full Court All-Tournament Team
Stephanie Amichia – North Gwinnett
Peyton Whitted – North Gwinnett
Vanessa Smith – Hathaway Brown
Nia Marshall – Hathaway Brown
Linnae Harper – Whitney Young
Science Hill – Tianna Tarter
Gabriella Hanson - Troy
Shanice Johnson - Cardinal O’Hara
Haley Clarke – Edgewater
Erykah Davenport – Tucker
Emily Lines- First Baptist Academy
Danielle Edward – McDonogh
Je’Taun Rouse – Marist
Consolation Scores (Finishes indicated in parentheses)
(3) Science Hill 60, (4) Whitney Young 57
The third-place game between the top two nationally ranked teams at the tournament also featured some late-game drama. No. 3 Science Hill (Johnson City, Tenn.), wasted a 16-point, late-second-quarter lead to fall behind as the game entered its final minute. But with No. 2-ranked Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.) in possession and clinging to a one-point lead, sophomore Keisha Gregory swiped the ball at midcourt and dropped it in at the other end to put the Hilltoppers back on top with 55 seconds left.
The plucky sophomore, daughter of East Tennessee State head coach Karen Kemp, had just seven points in the game, but scored when her team needed her most, following up her go-ahead layup with two at the line, to hand Whitney Young, which had entered the tournament unbeaten in 45 games, a streak that began more than a year ago, its second loss in as many days.
Saturday's loss came despite the best efforts of Kentucky-bound Linnae Harper, who logged 35 points, plus eight boards and six steals, for the Dophins, including a personal 10-0 run that spanned the late-third and early-fourth quarters and pulled Whitney Young to within one. It was a Harper free-throw that gave her team its first lead of the game with five minutes left. Even after Gregory's layup put Science Hill back on top in the game's final minute, Whitney Young had two opportunities to tie, or even win the game, but bobbled both, as Tanita Allen roped in a Harper dish with 35 seconds left, but failed to finish the layup, and Harper's three-point attempt with 10 seconds remaining fell short in the face of stiff defense from Gregory.
Junior center Gabby Lyon led Science Hill with a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double; Tianna Tarter added 12, while Morgan Knack chipped in nine. Harper was the only Dolphin player to finish in double figures.
(5) Troy 49, (6) Cardinal O’Hara 29
(7) Edgewater 62, (8) First Baptist Academy 54
(9) Tucker 40, (10) McDonogh 33
(11) Warren Easton 71, (12) Marist 63
(13) Center Pointe 67, (14) Barron Collier 60
Beach Bash Division
St. John Neumann 36, Long Island Coast 20
Gateway Charter 50, Lely 27
St. Thomas Aquinas 61, Fort Myers 37
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