Girls BB: Tuning up for busy July

Girls of Summer tour attends Cal Sparks NorCal Tune-Up in Stockton where EBX team wins after very slow start.

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There was some real shaking and baking going on inside the air-conditioned gyms at the second annual Cal Sparks NorCal Tune-Up held June 29-30 at Delta College in Stockton.

While the two gyms were air-conditioned, outside the only thing baking were the people moving between them in the 109-degree heat.

Inside, though, there really was more than one girl performing the shake and bake.

The tournament was eventually won by EBX, in a 56-51 victory over the Stockton Mavericks, but EBX had its ups and downs, as did the Mavericks and the other two semifinalists, host Cal Sparks NorCal and Cal Sparks 2015 from Southern California.

The top overall player by far was EBX star and Cal-bound 6-foot incoming senior wing Mikayla Cowling of Berkeley St. Mary’s. But even she had her rough spots.

After not playing together for three weeks, Cowling and the girls were a little sluggish in their 12:30 p.m. game on Saturday. An errant pass by Cowling led to overtime where they lost to Palo Alto Midnight, a team of girls mostly from Santa Clara County.

Not only did EBX come back in the 5:10 p.m. game with a vengeance, Cowling and the rest of the girls that coaches Mark Anger and Nate Fripp (also head coach at Berkeley St. Mary’s) put on the floor, including point guard Morgan Green, a 2014 from Santa Cruz Pacific Collegiate, and Taylor Berry, an incoming St. Mary’s senior 5-foot-11 power forward who recently committed to Santa Clara, destroyed Modesto Magic, 55-37, and it wasn’t that close.

Not only is Cowling’s ball handling and court movement much improved from last season, she pulls up and can nail the 15-foot jumper, something she’s had problems with in the past.

Plus, her hop has gone through the roof. On one play, she rose up for an offensive rebound with her left hand almost to the rim, and to the astonishment of everyone, including analyst Doug Benton, she tipped the ball in with her opposite hand, something we’ve never seen a girl under 6-4 or 6-5 do, and then rarely with the off hand.

“I’ve had four or five of them (tip-ins),” said a beaming Cowling when asked if this was her first.

When she showed up an hour earlier than any other girl at the Queens Academy two weeks ago in Walnut Creek, we knew something was up, and Cowling’s stock certainly is. She could be a solid contributor at Cal very quickly.

As for the slightly-built 5-foot-8 Green, she looked much better than at the Queens Academy, and in fact is starting to bear some resemblance to Windward’s Jordin Canada. She has great court vision and can do things few girls her age can do.

“She can be explosive,” remarked Benton.

On two occasions against Modesto, and with different hands, she delivered behind the back passes to Cowling and Berry for easy layups. Green can accelerate past most girls and her defense is very tenacious. Outside shooting is still a question mark.

Asked what she hoped to show college coaches during the upcoming NCAA viewing period that begins July 6, Green’s answers were concise and very basketball savvy.

“Show I can lead the team, my defensive intensity, being able to distribute to my teammates, show good decision making, and making the right plays,” she said.

Like the other EBX girls, Berry wasn’t at her sharpest in the morning game, although she was visibly improved since March.

Against Modesto, she dominated the glass, and finished inside on offense, something where she’s been inconsistent in the past.

“Taylor’s game is really picking up and she’s gaining confidence,” Fripp said. “What I really like is she rebounded very well today.”

With Cowling, Berry and Gabby Green, who was not at this event, in the lineup this coming season at St. Mary’s, the Panthers could be fighting it out in the Open Division against the same girls on the Mavericks, all of them who will play for Stockton St. Mary’s.

As for the Mavericks, incoming sophomore Kat Tudor is starting to find more than just a shooting game, although she made six 3-point shots in an afternoon 75-69 win over the Cal Ballaz, all the while being matched up and holding her own on defense against Ballaz point guard and Oakland Bishop O’Dowd 2015 star Asha Thomas.

Overall, in what all the assembled analysts agreed was the best game of the day, Tudor definitely looked significantly more developed than in her freshman season.

Tudor also had five treys in the morning game to give her 11 on the day. She gets up and down the court quickly, but improved strength, including in her legs, will improve lateral movement, something she will need at the next level.

When the Girls of Summer Caravan sat down to watch EBX in the game they lost, the seats taken by Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis and yours truly were right alongside former Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) multi-sport athlete Rometra Craig. The daughter of San Francisco 49ers star running back Roger Craig was the 1998-1999 Cal-Hi Sports Girls State Athlete of the Year for her prowess in basketball, tae kwon do and track.

Craig, who served as an assistant at Mitty last season to head coach and USA U16 head coach Sue Phillips, told us about an incoming freshman. So we snuck away from a game for a moment to watch Maddie Holland perform with Blythe Basketball, and it was worth it. Mitty is getting a diamond in the rough, and a girl similar in style to a girl Phillips coached on the Gold Medal winning U16 team, Sabrina Ionescu (2016) of Orinda Miramonte.

Sydney Raggio will be a top player next season at St. Ignatius of San Francisco. Photo: Harold Abend.

Sydney Raggio will be a top player next season at St. Ignatius of San Francisco. Photo: Harold Abend.

Still Hooping in San Francisco

When Mission Recreation Center director and girls basketball coach Oscar Jimenez died in 2010, many thought AAU basketball in San Francisco would drop off. After all, Jimenez had dominated the scene for three decades, and it was many of his girls that played on the state and national championship teams from Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Almost three years later, there are now two club teams in San Francisco, and one of them, the San Francisco Eagles, is run and coached by Armando Pazos, a former assistant to Jimenez.

In order to take the team to the next level, the 1999 Wallenberg (San Francisco) graduate left a 14-year career at UPS in May to devote himself full time to the Eagles.

“I started the Eagles when these girls were in the sixth grade, and I’ve had them even when I assisted Oscar,” Pazos said. “I left UPS to focus full time on the Eagles because I really believe some of my girls have a chance to go somewhere.”

One of the Eagles really shined and another rose her stock in Stockton.

Sydney Raggio, an incoming 6-foot-1 junior at St. Ignatius (San Francisco) who is still only 15-years old, looked significantly better than in her high school season. She played hard on both ends all 30 minutes of the game, was solid defense, attacked the glass, and controlled the paint in a 46-35 win over Metro San Jose.

Another Eagle that stood out was 5-foot-10 point guard Yazmine Goo. The incoming Daly City Westmoor junior needs the development Pazos can help her achieve, but she has good court sense, uses both hands, can hit a mid -range shot, and isn’t afraid to drive and dish.

The Eagles were without top player Josie Little. The incoming 6-foot-2 St. Ignatius (San Francisco) junior, who missed last season with a concussion, was away in Italy, but will be back when the team plays in the upcoming End of the Trail in Oregon, then the Battle In The Boro in Nashville, the Cal Sparks Ballin in the Ballroom event in Las Vegas, and finally the EBX Summer in the City at Chabot College.

Look for a report on the End of the Trail from correspondent Marissa Holbert of PassThaBall.

After covering the July 18-21 San Diego Classic that Cal-Hi Sports will be sponsoring, and that’s contested during the NCAA dark period, the Girls of Summer Caravan plans on heading to Las Vegas for the Cal Sparks event plus one or two others, and then returning to Northern California for the EBX event at Chabot.

Once the viewing period concludes at the end of July, the Girls of Summer evaluations from each event will be combined for final rankings of all the girls. Those rankings will appear in the Gold Club content package.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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  1. […] Cal-bound Mikayla Cowlng of St. Mary’s was the top overall player as she led EBX to the Cal Sparks NorCal Tune-Up title last week, writes Harold Abend. […]

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