San Diego Horizon’s Dijonai Carrington has a breakout game to lead Cal Sparks Gold to a 5-0 record in Elite Group pool but it also was another great week for Vista Murrieta’s Jaelyn Brown. Cal Sparks Blue completes sweep of top two divisions with title victory in Elite A bracket.
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This year’s version of the Cal Sparks Gold team is different than the last three when 2014 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year and incoming UCLA freshman Jordin Canada was directing the team to national prominence.
The post-Canada Sparks Gold team, which in a couple of respects is just starting to gel, is dominated by wings and bigs. Three girls that fit that description were instrumental in the team winning five games (including a Showcase game) at the Ballin’ in the Ballroom Elite Group pool, including a 58-46 victory over Michigan Shock on Friday morning that left Gold as the only unbeatens in the five-team field.
Last year’s event held annually at the Westin Lake Las Vegas in Henderson (Nevada) was a coming back party off a knee injury for former Sparks Gold and Long Beach Poly star Lajahna Drummer (now a freshman at UCLA).
This year at the Westin, the “she’s back” mantra goes to Gold wing and incoming Horizon of San Diego junior Dijonai Carrington.
After a knee injury that sidelined her from mid-summer 2013 to the final few games of last season, the 5-foot-11 Carrington isn’t twirling and spinning quite as much as she did when she was the Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman of the Year in 2013, and her shot is not all the way back, but she’s bigger, stronger and still has superior quickness to just about all girls her size.
Carrington started slow at the Ballin’ in the Ballroom event but finished strong after a double-double 16 points and 11 rebounds with seven steals and five assists in the win over the girls from Michigan.
“The last couple of tournaments I haven’t done as well as I did here,” said Carrington, who looked energized for the Friday morning 8 a.m. game despite admitting she could have gotten more sleep.
“It’s hard to go to sleep but I got just enough rest,” Carrington said before the game. Indeed she did.The three-day event in Las Vegas also was another impressive time for Jaelyn Brown, the incoming junior at Vista Murrieta. She wasn’t named to the USA U17 team but has the eye of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and every other major program in the country.
The left-hander is currently the No. 2 prospect in the nation for the Class of 2016, according to ESPN HoopGurlz, and the way Brown came on against the Michigan Shock in the final game shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who has followed her since she made her first appearance with Sparks Gold as a 13-year-old.
Against Michigan, she played excellent defense, helped lead the fast break, nailed her mid-range jumper, and finished with 16 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists.
The big girl who had the most impact all five games and who dominated the paint against Michigan was State Freshman of the Year runner-up and incoming sophomore Ayanna Clark of Long Beach Poly.
As for Clark, all you have to do is know USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke was the only coach in the NCAA mandated special seating area at 7:30 a.m. to watch Clark warm-up.
“I have to be here for my baby,” said the No. 4 player on the Cal-Hi Sports Girls Basketball All-Time Top 25 list with regards to being there for the early USC-verballed Clark.
Other girls who played well for Sparks Gold and will be highlighted in the upcoming Ballin’ in the Ballroom Standout feature were 6-foot-1 Kayla Overbeck, a 2017 from Newbury Park, Celeste West, a 6-foot-3 incoming junior from Bakersfield Garces, Jaylin Jones, a 5-foot-11 incoming senior from Placentia El Dorado, Briana Johnson, a 5-foot-6 point guard who will be a junior at Long Beach Poly, plus a couple of others that are still being evaluated.
Sparks Blue completes sweep
There were 53 teams combined in the four divisions at this year’s Ballin’ in the Ballroom but only five were in the Elite Group Pool and 16 in the Elite A Pool.
Sparks Blue got to the title game with a 56-38 victory over Seattle Lady Style while CBC was a winner over EBO Elite Black in its semifinal despite 27 points from State Freshman of the Year and EBO and La Jolla Bishop’s star Destiny Littleton.
Although she was consistent and executed well both on offense and defense in the first three games of Elite A Pool play, it was against CBC in the title game that Sparks Blue Kate Tokuhara had her breakout game.
Tokuhara hit two long three-pointers, finished strong around the basket for a 5-foot-10 guard, and the Mission Hills Bishop Alemany incoming junior finished with a game-high 22 points. She only had eight points in the win over CBC, but incoming Vista Murrieta junior guard Brittney Reed was the top overall player for Sparks Blue.
Another girl who came up big and played well in the paint for Blue against the big front line of CBC was incoming junior 6-foot-2 Long Beach Poly forward Eliza Matthews. She had six points and nine rebounds in the championship.
Other Sparks Blue players who will make the Standout feature are Tayler Bennett, a 2016 from Long Beach St. Anthony, Dalis Jones, an incoming junior from Corona Santiago, and Tiara Scott, an incoming junior from North Torrance.
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