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Full Court: Top talent, top teams on display at the Battle in the Boro

The weather just south of Nashville was dreary and damp for most of the four days of the eighth annual Battle in the Boro – and maybe the weather was trying to tell us something.

When the sky finally brightened on Monday, the Georgia Metros, led by Tournament MVP Allisha Gray, emerged from the talent packed, 64-team Showcase 16/17 Division to defeat host Tennessee Flight Silver in the final. In doing so, the Atlanta area club avenged its loss to the Flight in the semifinal of this past April’s Boo Williams event and offset its one loss to Kentucky Premier-Parley in a Saturday exhibition in Franklin, Tenn.

This year’s Boro was the biggest (and perhaps best) ever with 340 teams (up from 260 last year). Thirty-two states, the District of Columbia and Canada were represented by teams competing in six sections spread out over 15 locations and 34 courts in a four-day span.

The 64 teams in the Showcase were assigned to 16 pools of four, with the top two in each quartet moving on to the Gold bracket and the remaining two being placed in the Silver bracket. Barring forfeits, a team had to win five games to take either knock-out bracket title. Between pool play and bracket play there was a series of exhibition games with special prearranged matchups.

But though college coaches flocked to the exhibition games to babysit their prime recruits, the coaches and players were fired up to win the tournament, which, thanks to tournament director Tom Insell, is one of the best in the country. First, a recap of the two semifinals:

Georgia Metros 58, Kentucky Premier–Parmley 42

This turned out to be a rematch of the exhibition game which the Kentucky side had won 65-55. In that one, the Metros were playing without their starting point guard (Meagan Tucker, a 5-7 2013) who had just previously been lost to injury. The Metros also played Premier in a straight man-to-man defense and had trouble stopping penetration. In the rematch, the Metros seemed to have adjusted, taking a 35-30 lead to half led by the future event MVP Allisha Gray’s nine points. A game long 2-3 zone stymied the Kentuckians, who could add only 12 more points in the second stanza. The Metros finished with three players in double figures (Gray 14, Nasheema Oliver (a 6-3 2014 post) with 12 and Amber Campbell with 11). For Premier, only Makayla Epps reached double figures with 11 points.

Tennessee Flight Silver 52, Cy-Fair Nike Elite 2013 Coleman 45

Cy-Fair is essentially a team of guards and had recently beaten the Flight in the Final of the Super 64 in Frisco, Texas. This contest was competitive until the last few minutes as the Flight led 27-23 at half on the basis of stronger inside play. Nina Davis, active in the paint, was the only player to reach double figures (10 points) on either team. The second half saw a continuation of Cy-Fair wedded to jumpers and three-point attempts while the Flight was getting to the rim more often. Cy-Fair kept the game close but never close enough to have a chance to tie the game. Here size mattered, as Nina Davis finished with 16 points and Kaela Davis with 12. Point guard Alexa Middleton (a 5-8 2014) also chipped in 12 points. Cy-Fair was led by Brianna Taylor (a 5-9 2013 guard) with 15 points and Christen Inman (a 5-10 2013 guard) with 11.

That set up the final:

Georgia Metros 59, Tennessee Flight Silver 51

Before the game, Flight coach Tom Insell said that his team was “out of gas,” having played the tougher of the semis and having survived a quadruple overtime 75-71 thriller versus Ohio-based Sports City U the prior night in the quarterfinal round. His words appeared prophetic as the Metros’ Amber Campbell scored repeatedly on fast break run-outs to spark her team to a 33-29 lead at the break. The Metros maintained the lead throughout the second half with control of the glass being a lopsided 37 to 20 for the game. The host side never really threatened to take control of the game as Gray and Campbell finished with 15 points each to lead the Metros. Gray also chipped in eight boards. For the Flight, Kaela Davis finished with 15 points and Nina Davis with 12 points.

All-Tournament Team (class of 2013 unless otherwise indicated; in alphabetical order after the MVP)

MVP: Allisha Gray, 6-0 wing, Georgia Metros 16 Nike Team (Sandersville, Ga.)

Gray is like a baseball closer -- she will let others on her team set the pace early and then step up her involvement late to seal the victory. Perhaps more drive-oriented, her perimeter shooting continues to improve. For college, she has made an oral commitment to North Carolina.

Metros Coach Shari Griggs on Gray: “She is sort of a perfectionist. She will be harder on herself than I will.”

Amber Campbell, 5-9 combo guard, 2014, Georgia Metros 16 Nike Team (Charleston, S.C.)

Campbell is very quick and drives hard to the right but you must respect her left and her outside shot.

Griggs on Campbell: “She is the quickest player I have on the floor and she scores most of our transition points. She is just becoming known on the national scene.”

Jordin Canada, 5-7 point guard, 2014, Cal Sparks Gold (Los Angeles)

Already a member of the USA Basketball program, Canada is a solid all-around player. She is a stable floor general who readily involves others but can score on her own by driving or shooting over the opponent.

Dekeiya Cohen, 6-1 F, 2014, Georgia Metros 16 Nike Team (Charleston, S.C.)

Cohen is an energy package in the paint, strong on the boards and a shot blocker to boot.

Griggs on Cohen: “She likes to step out on the wing sometimes but I’m trying to get her to understand how strong she is in the paint.”

Kaela Davis, 6-2 F, Tennessee Flight Silver (Suwanee, Ga.)

Davis continues to mature in all aspects of her game and is developing more consistency in her shot, both deep and at midrange. She was the Flight’s best player in this event.

Coach Tom Insell on Kaela Davis: “If she keeps improving, she will be one of the best in the world someday. She has to keep getting better but has the talent to do so.”

Nina Davis, 6-1 power forward, Tennessee Flight Silver (Memphis, Tenn.)

Davis is very blue collar with a high motor at both ends. She’s not flashy but is very active in the lower paint.

Insell on Nina Davis: “She’s top 30 {in her class]. She does all the dirty stuff you need to win.”

Diamond DeShields, 6-2 wing, A.O.T. Lady Rebels (Norcross, Ga.)

DeShields, another North Carolina oral commitment, is becoming the consensus choice for most physically gifted player in the 2013 class. She is deadly once she works her way into the paint but her outside shot still needs to become more consistent. In some ways she is like a geyser in that she explodes and then becomes quiet for a while. Those quiet periods need to decrease some to insure becoming the top player in this class.

China Dow, 5-8 shooting guard, Kentucky Premier–Parmley (Louisville, Ky.)

Dow made big plays in the wing to baseline area both by driving and shooting outside. She needs to watch her conditioning and rev up the motor on defense on occasion.

Katelynn Flaherty, 5-7 combo guard, 2014, Epiphanny Prince Elite Demons (Point Pleasant, N.J.)

Flaherty reminds some of the WNBA’s Becky Hammon in that she has a wide assortment of ways to score (threes, funky floaters, pull-up J’s and drives) be her body more slight. For a young player, she reads the defense well.

Linnae Harper, 5-6 combo guard, Mac Irvin Lady Fire Godfather (Chicago)

Harper is probably the best rebounding guard for her size the 2013 class and she also has a strong pull-up jumper and can go to the basket with authority. She appears to prefer playing off the ball but is a good passer with high basketball IQ. Improving her range beyond the arc is probably the greatest need for this talented member of the USA Basketball program.

Dejza James, 6-1 power forward, Cal Sparks NorCal Black (Elk Grove, Calif.)

Solidly built, James is a finisher once she gets near the rim. She has range out to 15 feet but is not as yet into three-point shooting.

Brooke McCarty, 5-3 point guard, 2014, Cy-Fair Nike Elite 2013 Coleman (League City, Texas)

Diminutive in body type, she is like a smaller version of the WNBA’s Leilani Mitchell. She tends to score most by shooting outside within the team concept. On drives, she looks to dish first.

Raigyne Moncrief, 5-9 combo guard, Miami Suns Team Fowles (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)

Moncrief is best known for powerful drives to the rim, mostly from the right side. She can also annoy the opposition with her on-ball defense. Athletically gifted, she needs to work at striking a balance between shooting and distributing, as well as become more consistent shooting from distances close to the arc.

Adrienne Motley, 5-9 point guard, Boo Williams Summer League Boo (Newport News, Va.)

Motley is a point guard who can protect the ball but likes to score it as well, primarily by driving to her right. The form on her shot is good but consistency of results still needs to improve in that area. In this event she was the team’s top performer.

Alexis Peterson, 5-5 point guard, Sports City U (Columbus, Ohio)

On one of the deepest teams in the tournament, Peterson was one of the more consistent performers on a squad where players took turns stepping up in large-margin wins (until the four-overtime loss to the Tennessee Flight). She distributes well and scores primarily going right. On defense, she plays hard but she rarely shot outside so that area may need work.

Tyler Scaife, 5-8 shooting guard, Cy-Fair Nike Elite 2013 Coleman (Little Rock, Ark.)

Scaife was new to this team and played less (did not start) than would be expected for such a talented player. Still, when all is said and done, she may be one of the best in the 2013 class. Well built, she has a strong penetrating ability and pull-up jumper, but is also clever at giving the ball up if doubled on the penetration. On defense she plays hard. Generally, the team seemed stronger when she was on the court.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, 5-11 shooting guard, WPA Bruins-Mumbray (Aliquippa, Pa.)

Walker-Kimbrough’s best days are probably ahead of her as she has not yet filled out physically. In spite of that, she seems to be more oriented to penetrating with her lanky frame. Yet opponents still must respect her perimeter shot. In this event, she helped lead her team to the Showcase Silver (teams that finished third and fourth in pool play) championship with a lopsided 70-30 trouncing of the Cincinnati Angels Elite. For college, she has made an oral commitment to Maryland.

Others of note:

Bianca Cuevas, 5-6 combo guard, 2014, Exodus NYC (Bronx, N.Y.)

Cuevas scored over 50 and 30 in two pool games. She is diminutive in build but has great flair in scoring with all sorts of drives and is deadly beyond the arc. Her team’s unannounced departure from the event (what are these coaches teaching their players?) disqualified its players from all-tournament honors.

Makayla Epps, 5-8 combo guard, Kentucky Premier–Parmley (Lebanon, Ky.)

Epps’s game appears to have taken on the shape of her body, simply put: ‘solid.’ She can drive to the basket, shoot over the opponent and makes good decisions with the ball. For college, she has made an oral commitment to Louisville

Lindsey Spann, 5-6 point guard, MD Lady Terps (Laurel, Mary.)

Spann is a field general who can score by getting into the paint and then driving all the way to the rim or pulling up along the way.

Jade Johnson-Walker, 6-2 power forward, Ring City Elite (Maplewood, N.J.)

Strongly built, Johnson-Walker has good footwork in the key and displayed power around the basket.

Keep an eye on:


Kyra Lambert, 5-8 combo guard, Sophia Young Elite (Cibolo, Texas)

This young athletic player shows a lot of diversity in her offensive ability, scoring by driving or shooting over the opposition.

Marina Mabrey, 6-0 shooting guard, Epiphanny Prince Elite Demons (Belmar, N.J.)

The younger sister of Notre Dame incoming freshman Michaela Mabrey, Marina is a big time driver going left or right. While the outside shot is there, her release still needs to quicken.

Jonell Williams 6-2 power forward, FGB Elite–Kallina (Palatka, Fla.)

Williams possesses big time athletic genes as she’s the daughter of 10-year NFL veteran John L. Williams. She has great footwork (for her very strong build) and good hands, preferring to operate out of the high post. She scored in double figures in all of her team’s games in this event.


Crystal Dangerfield, 5-6 point guard, Tennessee Flight Silver (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)

Due to an injury at point, Dangerfield moved up to the Flight’s top team and responded well. She didn’t look to shoot much but hit the buzzer-beating, game-tying three in the third overtime that allowed the Flight to get to the fourth overtime and defeat Sports City U in that quarterfinal.

Insell on Dangerfield: “She’s got all the tools. Now we have to put it all together. She has great poise for her age [just entering high school].”

Special thanks to Kelvin Powell, Ray Rich and Kyle Turnham who served with me on this year’s All-Tournament Selection Committee.

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