San Diego Classic pool play recap

Mai-Loni Henson and Sabrina Callahan (right) led La Jolla Country Day to a win over Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills during pool play. Callahan recently committed to UC Santa Barbara and there are a plethora of girls competing at this year's San Diego Classic who will eventually sign with D1 colleges. Photo: Harold Abend

Mai-Loni Henson and Sabrina Callahan (right) led La Jolla Country Day to a win over Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills during pool play. Callahan recently committed to UC Santa Barbara. There are a plethora of girls competing at this year’s San Diego Classic who will eventually sign with D1 colleges. Photo: Harold Abend

It’s looking like a St. Mary’s vs. St. Mary’s California vs. Oregon championship semifinal showdown at the 27th Annual San Diego Classic.  Friday standouts include St. Mary’s of Stockton sophomore-to-be Angel Johnson.     

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RELATED: Day One Recap | Tournament Preview

After reviewing the brackets with San Diego Classic Tournament Director Wade Vickery, the Girls of Summer Caravan came to a conclusion echoed by Vickery. “It’s looking like St. Mary’s versus St. Mary’s.”

The way each team performed in pool play, it was somewhat inevitable. Unfortunately, the way the brackets played out, it’s looking like the matchup between Stockton and Portland (Ore.) will come in the semifinals at 8 p.m. on Saturday night.

St. Mary’s (Stockton) punched its ticket to the championship pool with two impressive victories in day two action on Friday.

First, the girls took out a team from the Cologne (Germany) area with four girls over 6-feet tall, led by 6-foot-5 Marie Guelich, a 19-year-old.

With no one in the lineup over 5-foot-11, it fell to 5-foot-8 Angel Johnson to mix it up in the paint with the big Germans, and Johnson came through with flying colors.

Guelich got her points and rebounds, finishing with game highs of 10 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks, but Johnson, an incoming sophomore going up against a 19-year old nine inches taller, was right there with her and Cologne’s other trees. Johnson only had six points, but she snagged 12 rebounds and her defense was outstanding.

“I have no fear,” Johnson told Cal-Hi Sports. “I’ll go up against anyone. I’m confident.”

Angel Johnson of Stockton St. Mary's gives the Rams' toughness on the inside despite her 5-foot-8 frame.

Angel Johnson of Stockton St. Mary’s is tough on the inside despite her 5-foot-8 frame.

Bri Moore had nine points, six steals and four assists, while Kat Tudor and Natalie Delgado each had nine points, mostly on three-pointers.

In the second game of the day for the girls from Stockton, and it what many observers felt might be a test for the scrappy Rams, turned into a 68-45 rout over Keppel of Alhambra.

St. Mary’s came out in its patented full court press and before anyone could catch their breath it was 26-4. Keppel made a couple of runs, but was never able to get it under 15 points.

The way head coach Tom Gonsalves has his young team playing is reminiscent of the “32 Minutes of Hell” played in the early 2000’s by state champions Lynwood and Narbonne of Harbor City.

On several different occasions, Gonsalves had a combination of either two or three incoming freshmen combined with either two or three incoming sophomores, and all of them can fly.

A highlight was when 12-year old Sierra Smith stole the ball from Keppel point guard Lauren Sakai, who is also the starting point guard for Cal Storm Team Taurasi.

Carlissa Shipp (2015) led St. Mary’s with 16 points, including four three-pointers. Johnson had a double-double 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Tudor added 14 points on four three-pointers.

Moore and Smith didn’t score a lot, but the two combined for 16 of the team’s 24 steals.

Keppel was led by 5-foot-10 incoming sophomore Sophia Song. The transfer from Bishop Montgomery, where she started last year as a freshman, had a double-double 19 points and 11 rebounds. If the two games she was observed is any indication, Song has a bright future.

Sakai played well, but being double and triple teamed meant she had to dish. The 5-foot-5 incoming junior had six points, six steals and five assists.

St. Mary’s of Portland is going to be a load for anyone. The Blues combine size and speed, and they showed both in a 53-31 rout of Bishop’s of La Jolla, although the game was closer than the score indicated.

Trailing 26-24 with 16 minutes left, Bishop’s went ice cold and St. Mary’s closed it out on a 27-4 run. The last 11 points, however, came against Bishop’s bench, while St. Mary’s only had two reserves to put in and left in the starters.

Imani Littleton, a 6-foot-3 post that Bishop’s head coach Marlon Wells said was offered by Tennessee and Texas A&M this past week, was out-girled in the paint by St. Mary’s.

Tyschal Blake, a 6-foot banger that’s on the Full Court Press Top 50 watch list of girls from 2015, is a multi-sport athlete that looks like she’s still learning the game. The St. Mary’s star had the mouths of the small school coaches watering, but Blake will be signing with one of the D1 schools that can’t attend the San Diego Classic.

Two other Portland girls that were very impressive were big, strong 6-foot incoming senior Cece Wooten, and flashy 5-foot-9 point guard Martina McCowan, a 2015 that head coach Art Rojas says is getting a lot of attention.

La Jolla Country Day won both of its games on Friday, and the local girls join arch-rival Bishop’s of La Jolla, on the top half of the bracket opposite the two St. Mary’s.

While Country Day won all its games and its Pool, Bishop’s qualifies for the championship Pool since the first and second place teams in opening Pool play move on to the title Pool.

In its first game, Country Day was a 58-26 winner of Pilchuck of Marysville, Washington.

The second game saw the Torreys prevail, 43-37, over a solid Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) team missing its top player.

Sabrina Callahan, a 6-foot forward who this past week committed to UC Santa Barbara, led Country Day with 15 points and 11 rebounds. She has finally shown the improvement everyone has been hoping for.

Near miss all-state freshmen Mai-Loni Henson (2016) looks significantly improved since the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan previously saw her play on MLK Day last season in Stockton. She had 10 points and eight rebounds and even popped a trey.

Championship pool one play begins Saturday afternoon with the quarterfinals. The first place winners in the four pools play the second place finishers. Then the winners meet later at night for the semifinals. Those winners play for the championship on Sunday evening.

For complete brackets, additional information about the tournament, and updated results for all three divisions and 166 teams, please visit 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 marketingharoldabend@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend


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