Clovis West takes Smith Division
By Bob Corwin
Clovis West High School of Fresno, California, won the Joe Smith Division defeating Miami (Florida) Country Day School 67-45 in a final’s battle of nationally ranked teams according to the latest MaxPreps Xcellent 25. The John Anderson Division (see part 2 for details) saw host school Mesquite High School of Gilbert, Arizona, defeat Incarnate Word Academy of St. Louis, Missouri, by a score of 60-50. The event was held in Gilbert and Phoenix, Arizona, from December 19-22 (teams playing one game a day).
20th year of Nike TOC
The 2016 edition marked the twentieth anniversary of the event which was held in California in its earlier years but has now been in Arizona for close to a decade (last two headquartered in Gilbert). As usual, the quality of teams in the Smith Division was very high and do not be surprised to see some that fared poorly go home and win a state title. Other events may claim to be the best high school tournament in the country but on a consistent year to year basis, the top section (Smith) is far superior to other 16-team fields. If a high school team wants to prove it is the best, come try to win out in the Arizona desert just before Christmas!
With multiple sites and coaches coming and going from their own games, it was hard to judge a count. Tournament officials placed the total at 140 (heavy to NCAA DI) college coaches from all over the USA but with a western lean.
Looking at the action in the Smith Division semi-final and final rounds…
Miami (Florida) Country Day 66-60 OT Grandview High School (Colorado)
This was billed as Country Day’s superior perimeter (see all-tournament selections of Lewis and Marshall plus sophomore Maria Alvarez) versus Grandview’s physical front line (see all-tournament selections of Jones and Onyenwere plus junior Leilah Vigil (5-10)). There was minimal separation with Grandview leading 25-24 at half. The third quarter saw the Colorado team separate to 47-38 with its stronger interior holding sway. In the final stanza, the Floridians chipped away as Maria Alvarez hit a couple of threes and Kelsey Marshall scored several times in the paint while Grandview was missing and turning the ball over more thus allowing the score to be tied at 53 with just over two minutes left. Grandview led by two in the closing seconds but turned the ball over and fouled Country Day’s Channise Lewis who hit two foul shots and the game went into overtime knotted at 57. In the last 20 seconds of regulation Grandview’s Michaela Onyenwere went out with injury (later proved not serious) and she did not return.
Country Day controlled the overtime from the start with an Alvarez three (fifth of game) and Grandview never equalized the rest of the way. Alvarez (5-7) and Marshall led Country Day with 16 points and Lewis had 15. Grandview was led by junior forward Leilah Vigil with 17 points. All-tournament team members (see below) Davis (16 points) and Onyenwere (10 points) also posted double figures in its team’s first loss of the year.
Clovis West (California) 63-58 St. Mary’s of Stockton (California)
Clovis West brought experience and team concept to the table while St. Mary’s came in with more future Power 5 players but are younger and have no true point guard. Like the first semi, there was minimal separation in the first half closing 35 to 33 in favor of the team from Stockton. A few threes and fast breaks put Clovis West (out of Fresno) up 50-43 after three-quarters. St. Mary’s made a few runs at the lead getting as close as four with just over a minute left but sloppy ball handling hurt its chances combined with Clovis’s veteran poise. St. Mary’s Aquira DeCosta led all scorer’s with 27 points while balanced Clovis West put three into double figures led by Arizona State signee Bre’yanna Sanders (6-0) and Boise State signee Tess Amundsen (6-0) with 14 points each.
Clovis West 67-45 Miami Country Day
Clovis West was favored on the basis of depth and balance. Country Day had to hope that its trio of guards would score in similar fashion to the semis where they combined for 47 points. Here the saying of “live on the perimeter; die on the perimeter” became in play as its guard trio combined for just 18 points. Early on Country Day was missing shots and turning the ball over more than usual. Clovis West led 30-22 at half and 43-37 after three-quarters. The fourth quarter saw nothing but frustration for the Floridians as they missed while Clovis West’s Madison Campbell was posting nine points, thus outscoring Country Day by herself in the quarter. Campbell led all scorers with 23 points while Miami Country Day’s Lewis led her team with just 11 points.
While Clovis West has plenty of Division I talent (five signed seniors), what made them so special at the event was the poise collectively displayed being senior dominated, a willingness to share the ball and putting team success over individual accolades. Not having played in the top section of the Nike TOC since 2009, Coach Craig Campbell was not sure how his team would fare. The answer is now obvious. Very well!
Below in alphabetical order (with listed height, graduation year and school) within division is the All-Tournament team selected for the Smith Division.
Nike Tournament of Champions 2016
Joe Smith Division All-Tournament Team
Sarah Barcello, 5-11, guard/forward, 2018, Seton Catholic Prep (Chandler, Arizona)
Barcello led her team in scoring in several games at the event. She likes to shoot (often threes) from the wing to baseline area, generally taking shots when appropriate.
Niya Beverley, 5-7, point guard, 2017, St. John’s College High School (Chevy Chase, DC)
Unsigned but with D1 offers in hand, Beverley was her team’s steadiest player at the event, also being the primary ball handler. Her biggest moment was hitting the game winner versus Mercer County, Kentucky, as time expired.
Sarah Bates, 5-9, shooting guard, 2017, Clovis West High School (Fresno, California)
Bates, a Santa Barbara signee, had multiple double-digit outings in Gilbert, but also shared in the ball handling, always thinking team first.
Madison Campbell, 5-11, small forward, 2019, Clovis West High School (Fresno, California) MVP
Campbell was one of several candidates for the MVP award from the winning side. A shooter with multiple Power 5 offers, she hit six threes in leading her team in the event final. She appears to be most comfortable shooting from the baseline area.
Alisha Davis 6-1, power forward, 2019, Grandview High School (Aurora, Colorado)
Davis, a likely Power 5 prospect, is your jump out of the gym athlete who is a monster rebounder/double double waiting to happen. She can also face up to score.
Ariel Johnson, 5-9, center/power forward, 2018, St. Mary’s High School (Stockton, California)
Johnson may not be a natural point guard but she has size, a decent basketball IQ and is an above average athlete who can get to the rim. She was St. Mary’s most consistent and most stable player at the event be she not best in all games.
Channise Lewis, 5-8, point guard, 2017, Miami Country Day School (Miami, Florida)
Lewis, an Illinois signee, is an up tempo lead guard who likes to push offense. With her team winning three games in Chandler, she scored her share of points while handling the ball for almost the entire game. Her offense has variety able to score the three, at mid-range and go to the rim.
Kelsey Marshall, 5-9, shooting guard, 2017, Miami Country Day School (Miami, Florida)
Marshall, a Miami of Florida signee, looks to score. She can hit the three and has a pretty pull-up. Like many shooters, she can vary on hitting double figures (most of this event) or be off (as in the final).
Haley Jones, 6-1, forward, 2019, Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, California)
Jones was a regular double-digit performer at the event. She can hit the three but is most deadly from mid-range or going to the rim all within the context of the offense. Defensively, she does her job. Power 5 schools have already lined up for her services.
Michaela Onyenwere, 6-0, forward, 2017, Grandview High School (Aurora, Colorado)
Onyenware, a UCLA signee, is a physically tough player, who scores her points (mid-range and in) and takes the toughest assignments on defense with her don’t back down attitude infecting her teammates. She is another nightly double double candidate.
Samantha Thomas, 6-0, power forward, 2017, Centennial High School (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Thomas, an Arizona signee, always gives her team something. This lefty likes to work out of the high post shooting or driving from there.