McDonald’s Girls: California factor

Brianna Turner from Texas wins the MVP but California girls make a statement in West victory

Despite only one of the four California girls on the West roster starting, and even though the MVP was Notre Dame-bound Brianna Turner from Manvel, Texas, it was California girls, and one in particular, that came up huge in an 80-78 West victory.

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Turner, a 6-foot-3 forward and the ESPNW No. 2 rated senior in the nation, finished with a double-double 11 points and 10 rebounds, and scored the game’s final basket on an assist from that California girl, Jordin Canada of Los Angeles Windward.

The 5-foot-6 Canada, who very well could have been named the MVP, finished with 10 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals, and despite having a poor shooting night (4-of-12), she took control against the best girls in the world whenever she was in the game, particularly down the stretch.

“Canada was in control in the final minute,” said Cal-Hi Sports Managing Editor Ronnie Flores, who was in attendance in Chicago for the girls and boys doubleheader.

When the East’s uncommitted A’Ja Wilson (Heathwood Hall Episcopal, Columbia, S.C) made two free throws to tie the game at 78-78 with 1:24 remaining, the UCLA-bound Canada started to work her magic.

After a missed opportunity by the West, Canada helped create a turnover and then found Turner for a layup with 52 seconds left. The seventh assist was the most in the 13-year history of the girls game.

“It wasn’t like I came in trying to set records, I was just trying to play my game,” Canada told Flores. “When the opportunity presented itself, I found my teammates.”

Turner, the beneficiary of three of Canada’s assists, got to the right spot where the Windward star found her on a patented look-away pass.

“Jordin was driving and I was just trying to scoot to the open spot,” Turner said.

Even after the Turner basket, the game was anything but decided. Turner got a blocked shot, Berkeley St. Mary’s Cal-bound Gabby Green got a defensive rebound, and then after she had one of only three turnovers, Canada got a defensive rebound with seven seconds left and the West was able to run out the clock.

“First of all I was really mad I turned the ball over,” said Canada, who handled the ball in the game’s final moments.

Lajahna Drummer, who bolted out of the press conference to catch a plane Saturday night after her Long Beach Poly team won the CIF Open Division title, was the California girl that started and she played fairly well, although the 6-foot-3 UCLA-bound Jackrabbits star only had six points and three rebounds.

The reality is that other than Turner, the West starters were a bit listless in the beginning and in spots throughout the game. It wasn’t until Canada entered and keyed an 8-0 run that the West woke up and turned a six-point deficit into a 20-16 lead that eventually was extended to 26-18, and then 34-27 before Canada sat and the starters gave it up to trail 41-40 at the half.

The same thing happened in the second half when the West went up 59-51 only to see the lead evaporate when Canada went to the bench.

Finally, the West coaching staff got Turner and Canada on the court at the same time and the West was able to win an entertaining game that had nine ties and 14 lead changes.

Mikayla Cowling of Berkeley St. Mary’s was another big contributor for a West bench that scored 45 of the 80 points. The 6-foot-1 Cal-bound Cowling had 10 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Her teammate Green had two points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

California had five girls playing in the game. Texas was next with four girls.

The fifth California girl, Louisville-bound Richmond Salesian star Mariya Moore, played for the East and came off the bench to register six points, five rebounds and two nice-looking assists.

Had the East won the MVP would have been Shakayla Thomas of Sylacauga, Alabama. The 5-11 Florida State-bound ESPNW No. 12 ranked senior had a game high 19 points.

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