ESPN HoopGurlz: Flight's Top Finals Performers
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Both the Tennessee Flight and Boo Williams Summer League had tremendous performances from numerous players to get them to the championship game. In the summer's big finale at Nike Nationals each team again saw big-time performances in a game that delivered intensity, clutch plays and entertainment for the packed house in attendance. Four players in particular played big roles in the Flight's 60-57 championship victory though everyone that played contributed greatly.
Tennessee-commit Faith Dupree had a substantial challenge in front of her in the championship with the size and talent of Boo's front court. Where many of her peers in previous games against the Virginia powerhouse were intimidated Dupree stood strong. She battled inside and played physical defensively to limit the damage the swarms of bigs Boo ran out there could do. She really punished them on offense where her range became a big factor in the game. The post from Knoxville, Tenn., saved her baskets for clutch moments, knocking down two big three's in the second half. Very few teams have a guard who shoots a high percentage from the three-point line and the Flight got it from its 6-3 center.
The physical play and unrelenting effort of Jasmine Hassell against a huge front line for Boo Williams was contagious for the rest of the Flight bigs. The 6-2 post scored 11 big points including two clutch baskets in the final minutes when Boo was mounting a comeback. The Lebanon, Tenn., native used her body incredibly well to protect the ball against the tall, long and athletic posts defending her. She showed strong drop steps and the ability to score on numerous counter moves. Even when Boo's bigs blocked her shot she stayed with it and made the hustle plays it takes to win a championship.
Jasmine James from Bartlett, Tenn., saved her best performance of the summer for the biggest game of the summer. James scored 12 of her game high 17 points in the first half leading to a 10 point lead for her Flight team. The 5-8 shooting guard shot the ball well, making the defender pay for relaxing or giving her a cushion. As they began to overplay her to take the three-point shot away she showed she can put the ball on the floor and make things happen. As with many scorers when they shoot the ball well, her defense was turned up a notch higher than it had been the rest of the tournament. More important than the number of points she scored is how clutch she was down the stretch. With 55 seconds remaining with just a two point lead James knocked down a 20-foot bomb as the shot clock expired to all but seal the deal. She also stepped to the line and knocked down two free throws in the final seconds after Boo had cut the lead to three.
Valencia McFarland of Edwards, Miss., is just 5-6 but her quickness and fearlessness makes up for any perceived weakness her size may suggest. She is one of the few players to keep up with Boo's Daniell Jackson and the two going back and forth provided an exciting pace to the game. McFarland made things happen with dribble penetration and scored 11 points on an array of layups and floaters. She did a great job of committing the help defense and forcing them to rotate on her kick-out passes. The dynamo point guard also relieved the ball pressure from the other guards but handling it herself most of the game. This 2010 player will be up for fastest in the country with the ball next year.
Chris Hansen covers girls' high school basketball nationally for ESPN.com and leads the panel that ranks and evaluates players for the network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.