Peninsula of Rolling Hills Estates and Lakewood (Colo.) nearly get upsets, but top teams St. Mary’s and La Jolla Country Day hold on. Littleton and Bonton, meanwhile, are big girls who notch impressive double-doubles.
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The first day of the 27th annual San Diego Classic, a highlight of the summer girls basketball circuit, saw all the top teams advance, but for tournament favorite St. Mary’s of Stockton it was anything but a cakewalk.
The Rams, weary from an eight-hour drive straight to the RIMAC gym at UC San Diego, trailed 23-20 at the half to the girls from Palos Verdes Peninsula of Rolling Hills, but despite shooting 2-of-19 from 3-point range, St. Mary’s survived a dose of triple trouble in a 45-35 victory.
St. Mary’s was led by Angel Johnson. Having to play almost exclusively in the paint due to the absence of Charise Holloway, the 5-foot-8 incoming sophomore finished with game highs of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Incoming junior star Bri Moore warmed up in the second half after a sluggish start. The St. Mary’s floor general finished with nine points, eight steals and four assists.
“My legs were a little tight after all that time in the car,” Moore told the Girls of Summer Caravan.
“Moore was very impressive,” said Tournament Director Wade Vickery, who grinned when told it was one of the Rams’ star’s worst performances this summer. “If that’s a poor performance, I’ll still take it.”
In 32 years of covering girls basketball, we saw a first at the San Diego Classic this year, and it came in the form of the Lucci sisters, and all three of the incoming junior triplets — Madison, Paris and Tiffany Lucci – played well for Peninsula in its strong showing against St. Mary’s.
The Rams’ road weariness, combined with the Lucci sisters knowing exactly where each other is on the court at all times, allowed the girls from Palos Verdes to break the vaunted St. Mary’s press. That is until the girls from Stockton shook off the cobwebs.
Paris Lucci led Palos Verdes with 10 points and five assists.
La Jolla Country Day also got a scare from Lakewood (Colo.) in its first game, but survived to prevail 38-37.
Melanie Quijano led Country Day with 11 points, while Mai-Loni Henson and Mariana Ecija added 10 points apiece.
“Our younger kids’ defense isn’t where it needs to be and we missed 12 free throws,” said Country Day head coach Terri Bamford. “Everybody has to pick it up.”
Country Day’s cross-town arch rival, The Bishops School, ran roughshod over Riverside M.L King, in a 48-28 victory.
Highly regarded D1 prospect Imani Littleton led the way for Knights’ head coach Marlon Wells. The 6-foot-3 incoming senior had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
A young Long Beach Millikan squad also took an easy 39-22 victory from Santa Ana Foothill.
Alyssa Bonton, the only senior starter for veteran head coach Lorene Morgan, led the way with a double-double 16 points and 13 rebounds.
St. Mary’s of Portland (Ore.) was an easy winner over a San Diego Horizon team playing without State Freshman of the Year DiJonai Carrington.
Day two continues with pool play and each team playing two games. Winners in the early games advance to the pool finals in A and B Pool, where this year both the first and second place teams advance to the championship bracket.
In pools C and D, which have less than eight teams, they’ll complete round-robin pool play with two games, and then the first and second place teams advance to the championship bracket.
For all the brackets, additional information about the tournament, and complete results for all three divisions and 166 teams, go to SanDiegoClassic.com.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend