CHICAGO, Ill. – The 13th annual Girls McDonald’s All-American game Wednesday night at the United Center was the finishing touch to a very busy week.
Yes, it was an all-star game featuring the best high school seniors in the country, but its competitiveness and finish made it a game to remember.
Brianna Turner’s jumper with 53 seconds left off a Jordin Canada assist was enough for the West and it held off a furious last second rally by the East to pick up an 80-78 win.
“Jordin was driving and I was trying to get to the open spot,” Turner said, named the game’s Most Valuable Player. “And she dished to me.”
The Notre Dame-bound Turner (Pearland, Tex.), finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
After Turner’s basket, Shakayla Thomas (Sylacauga, Fla.) missed a layup and California-bound Gabby Green (Oakland, Calif.) grabbed the rebound. A’Ja Wilson (Hopkins, S.C.) stole the ball, but future Gamecocks teammate Jatarie White (Charlotte, N.C.) missed the shot. Canada rebounded and Tennessee-bound Alexa Middleton (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) fouled with three seconds left.
“I have never played in front of this many people before,” Turner said. “Our high schools games are nothing like this. It’s my first time playing in a big arena like this and it was exciting to be with all these other girls. Great competitors, great teammates and it was great to be around these girls.”
Meanwhile the UCLA-bound Canada (Los, Angeles, Calif.) finished with 10 points, six rebounds and a game-record seven assists to go along with four steals.
The game was tied 10 times and the lead changed hands nine. The East’s largest lead was six with 16:44 left in the first half while the West’s biggest margin was eight with 8:47 left in the first half.
“Once you get into the middle of the game (equal playing time) goes out the window and you are trying to win the game,” West coach Randy Napier said. “The competitiveness rises in the players and the coaches and you really get emotionally involved. This setting is a little bit different but you still get a little emotionally involved in there down the stretch.”
The West won despite shooting 0-of-20 from three-point range.
“If you would have told me that they would have gone 0-for-20, I would have told you you were nuts,” Napier said. “This group can shoot the ball.”
Tennessee-bound Jamie Nared (Portland, Ore.) led the winners with 15 points, four rebounds and two steals.
|Ariel Atkins, of Duncanville High School, Duncanville, Tex., was named the Morgan Wooten Player of the Year on March 25, 2014, prior to the start of the McDonald's All-American Games. The award, named for the Hall of Fame coach and McDonald's All-American Selection Committee Chair, recognizes achievement on and off the court. Atkins is bound for the University of Texas next season. (Photo courtesy McDonald's All-American Games)|
Ariel Atkins (Duncanville, Tex.), who had previously been named McDonald's All-American Player of the Year, added 12 points, four rebounds and two assists for the West. Atkins, a 6-0 standout from Duncanville High School who will play for the University of Texas next year, is the third girls player from the state of Texas to win the award, beating out fellow finalists Kelsey Mitchell (Princeton High School, Cincinnati, Ohio); Shakayla Tomas (Sylacauga High School, Ala.); Briana Turnver (Manvel High School, Pearland, Tex.); Jatarie White (Providence Day School, Charlotte, N.C.); and A'Ja Wilson (Heathwood Hall Episcopal High School, Hopkins, S.C.).
UCLA-bound Mikayla Cowling (Benicia, Calif.) 10 points, four rebounds and two steals, and Chatrice White (Shelby, Neb.), who has signed with the University of Illinois, had nine rebounds and three blocked shots to help propel and evenly balanced West squad to the win.
The Florida State-bound Thomas sparked the East squad with 19 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots.
“When the game first started, I wasn’t there mentally,” Thomas said. “But as the tip-off hit, I got prepared. I saw how they ran and I like to run. And playing against them, pushed me to get ready for the next level.”
Duke-bound Lynee` Belton (Clinton, Md.) posted 11 points and eight rebounds, while Wilson had 10 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and three steals for the East. Jatarie White (Charlotte, N.C.) tacked on eight points and six rebounds.
But it was more than the game, which raises funds for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, that left an impression on the participants, who had a chance to visit the regional Ronald McDonald House and spend time with some of the children and families their efforts benefit.
“You got to give it all to God,” said Canada, echoing the sentiments of many of her fellow All Americans. “I have had the best time of my life this past week. I went to the Ronald McDonald House and it really opened my eyes to see how privileged I was and giving back to the community and to the little kids. It was a great experience.”
Earlier in the week, several of the players competed in the McDonald's All-American JamFest. Tennessee-bound Alexa Middleton (Riverdale High School, Murfeesboro, Tenn.) won the girls' skills competition, edging out Duke-signee Sierra Calhoun (Christ the King High School, Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Turner, who finished second and third, respectively. Middleton also won the girls' 3-point competition, while UCLA-bound Recee' Caldwell (FEAST Home School, San Antonio, Tex.) and Texas-commit Brooke McCarty (Clear Springs High School, League City, Tex.) tied for second. Six-four wing A'ja Wilson of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Hopkins, S.C., who remains undecided with respect to her college plans, competed in the dunk contest, but was unable to score and did not progress to the final round.
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