March 21, 2012
Weekly Words: The role call of newly minted state champions is 15 in the Blue Star Go-To 25 girls basketball rankings. Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.) and Twinsburg (Ohio), Goodrich (Mich.) and Cicero (N.Y.) North Syracuse expanded that list last weekend taking home hardware. CNS isn’t done as the Breanna Stewart-led New Yorkers will go for the elusive Class AA Federation title in Albany. Don’t be surprised if Hopkins and Goodrich repeat in 2013 as both return a plethora of talent. Joining the rankings this week were both teams as Goodrich completed an unbeaten campaign while Hopkins went 30-1. Three California teams -- Mater Dei, La Jolla Country Day and Bishop O’Dowd -- go for state titles this weekend in Sacramento along with New York and Pennsylvania tournaments. Once those three are complete, so is the high school season save the four-team National High School Invitational (starting March 30) in North Bethesda, Md. The dream matchup at the season closer is Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) and defending champion Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.). One can only hope. We’re only a week away from the McDonald’s All America Games in Chicago. We’ll be there giving you updates and then shift over to the NHSI. Stay tuned. If you live in California, New York or Pennsylvania, we’ll see you at the state championships. Once the NHSI ends, the club circuit starts in earnest (mid-April). We’ll keep you abreast of national scene.
Varsity Letters: The usual snippets from around the nation.
Must-see events: Three states have postseason games this weekend.
California: Three sessions, with 10 boys and girls’ games at the Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento. Several teams in the Blue Star Go-To rankings are highlighted.
Friday: Division IV boys, Price (Los Angeles-Salesian (Richmond), 1:30 p.m.; Division IV girls, Salesian-La Jolla Country Day, 3:30 p.m.; Division II girls, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)-J.W. North (Riverside), 6 p.m.; Division II boys, Archbishop Mitty-La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad), 8 p.m.
Saturday: Division V girls, Brookside Christian (Stockton)-Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo), 9:30 a.m.; Division V boys, St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda)-Village Christian (Sun Valley), 11:15 a.m.; Division III boys, Sacred heart Cathedral (San Francisco)-Alemany (Mission Hills), 2:45 p.m.; Division III girls, Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland)-Laguna Hills, 1 p.m.; Division I girls, Mater Dei (Santa Ana)-Berkeley, 6 p.m.; Division I boys, Mater Dei-Sheldon (Sacramento), 8 p.m.
New York: The New York State Federation opens Friday for a three-day run at the Times Union Center in Albany. Champions in both genders will be crowned in Class AA, A and B. The AA semifinal is Saturday and the final is Sunday. Powerhouses Mount Vernon (first-round bye), St. Raymond (Bronx) and Boys and Girls (Brooklyn) compose the boys bracket.
Pennsylvania: The championship weekend begins Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State in University Park with two sessions of two games over two days for both genders in Class AAAA, AAA, AA and A. Friday’s games tip noon and 2 p.m.; then 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday’s schedule is the same, including the Class AAAA boys final, with Lower Merion (Ardmore) and Chester likely to meet for the second time in the postseason. The state semifinals are statewide on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Honored: The McDonald’s All American Games and Morgan Wootten, Hall of Fame coach and selection committee chair, named Shabazz Muhammad and Breanna Stewart winners of the 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year Award for their accomplishments on and off the court.
Muhammad, the 6-6, from Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), became the 16th winner of the annual male Morgan Wootten Award. Previous winners include Austin Rivers (2011), Kevin Love (2007), Dwight Howard (2004), LeBron James (2003), Jay Williams (1999) and the award's first recipient, Shane Battier (1997). He beat out finalists Kyle Anderson, Brandon Ashley, Isaiah Austin, Marcus Paige and Marcus Smart.
Stewart of Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.), is the 11th female winner, joining notables as Elizabeth Williams (2011), Maya Moore (2007), Tina Charles (2006), Candace Parker (2004) and Ivory Latta (2003). Stewart won the honor over finalists Malina Howard), Moriah Jefferson, Alexis Jones, Jewell Loyd and Morgan Tuck.
The Morgan Wootten Award is given to the best male and female McDonald’s All American players, who exemplify outstanding character, exhibit leadership and embody the values of being a student-athlete in the classroom and the community. McDonald’s established the award in Wootten’s honor to pay tribute to unprecedented achievements as a teacher and coach. The official award presentation will take place at the McDonald's All American Games awards banquet on March 27 in Chicago.
Muhammad is one of the top-ranked players in the 2012 class and has led his team to three Nevada 4A State Championships (2009, 2010 and 2012). Off the court, Muhammad has participated in community service projects through his high school and is three-year member of the honor roll. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to be recognized as the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year,” Muhammad said. “When you look at the long list of guys who’ve been honored with this award – LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Shane Battier – it’s nice to know I’m at a similar phase in my basketball career and I hope to continue with that success.” Stewart is the top-rated player in the Class of 2012, according to Blue Star. In 2011, Stewart led her team to its first state championships in school history and is looking to repeat this weekend. Off the court, she routinely volunteers at a local YMCA and youth basketball program and is a member of the honor role. “Being named a McDonald’s All American is a great honor, but to be chosen as Player of the Year makes it even more special,” she said. “This is an award I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I’m so grateful to my coaches, trainers and family members who have been right behind me every step of the way.” The games will be played on March 28 at the United Center in Chicago The girls game begins at 7 p.m. ET, and will broadcast live on ESPNU; the boys tip at on ESPN follows.
Mighty Macs: McAuley (Portland, Maine) completed a 22-0 season after defeating previously unbeaten Cony, 54-41, to win the large-school (Class A) state championship. There was some doubt in December if McAuley would repeat, with a new coach (Bill Goodman) and several young players, but the Lions rode talented senior forward Alexa Coulombe. The Boston College-bound Coulombe, sophomore point guard Allie Clement and sophomore Olivia Clement may have been the stars but contributions from others such as Sadie DePierro were invaluable. The Lions’ lockdown defense allowed only 28 points per game in the regular season.
Ticket alert: Tickets for the 2012 McDonald's All American Games are still available through Ticketmaster or charge-by-phone at 1-866-909-GAME. Ticket prices start at only $12, and are also available in a "Family Four Pack" for $53, which includes four tickets, and a voucher for four hot dogs and sodas at United Center concession stands. Parking is free the night of the games, but tickets are going fast. In 2011, the event sold out. Net proceeds from ticket sales benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.
Christopher Lawlor is a Senior Writer for Blue Media and compiles the Blue Star Go-To 25 national boys and girls high school basketball 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. He also managed the Gatorade national high school player of the year award program for a decade at Scholastic, Inc.
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