The longest-standing girls showcase in California had two new girls stamp themselves as legends of the event, Sabrina Ionescu of Miramonte and Aarion McDonald of Brookside Christian.
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Those two join a distinguished list of alumnae from the event, topped by WNBA All-Star Jayne Appel of the San Antonio Spurs via Stanford and Concord Carondelet. Appel played in one of the most memorable games against 2006 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Jacki Gemelos of St. Mary’s of Stockton, who is currently playing in Europe after playing the last two seasons with the Chicago Sky.
The 17-year event originally called the Acalanes Shootout and more recently known as the Corner Bakery Showdown is now the Lamorinda Classic and was held at Lafayette Bentley last Saturday to benefit the Bentley and Campolindo programs and promote girls basketball in Northern California.
Ionescu leads Miramonte to comfortable win
It would be a bit of a misnomer to say Sabrina Ionescu wasn’t already a name associated with being a star of the longtime girls showcase.
The early leading candidate for Ms. Basketball led Miramonte (17-0) to a win in 2013 over Archbishop Mitty, a win over Berkeley in 2014, a somewhat controversial victory over Berkeley last year, and this year she made it four straight with one of her patented performances in a 80-65 victory over Carondelet.
The margin of victory looks a little closer than it actually was as Miramonte led at one point by 24 points and 80-58 before head coach Kelly Sopak emptied the bench and Carondelet scored the final seven points.
Ionescu, a 6-foot guard and USA Basketball star who is the ESPN No.1 rated senior at her position, finished with a near triple-double 28 points and 11 assists with eight rebounds and four steals. About the only thing where she was not at her best was at the free-throw line where she was under her 90-percent season average after going 15 of 19 from the charity stripe.
Joining Ionescu in double figure scoring was senior Keana Delos Santos (19 points) and Eastern Washington-bound 5-10 forward Uriah Howard who added 16 points and eight rebounds.
Carondelet (10-6) got 19 points and four assists from Vanessa Cruz and 10 points from Fiona Dolan. Junior star Briana Simonich was held to six points but had nine rebounds.
McDonald’s buzzer-beater beats Pinewood
Brookside Christian of Stockton (14-7) overcame a 52-42 deficit after three quarters to tie it at 62-62 in regulation and then won it 73-71 in overtime on an off-balance 25-foot shot by Aarion McDonald with two defenders in her face at the final buzzer.
McDonald, a Washington-bound senior who is the ESPN No. 14 ranked guard from her class in the nation, had two treys in the extra period and made more than one circus shot on her six 3-pointers in the game. She finished with 31 points but 13 came in the pivotal fourth quarter and six in the extra period. McDonald also had nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Junior Dionni McCoy had five of her 16 points (seven rebounds) in overtime. Junior 6-foot center Zhane Lewis gave Pinewood problems in the paint and finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Pinewood (13-3) trailed 42-39 but closed out the third quarter on a 13-0 run ignited by juniors Mikaela Topper and Akayla Hackson, and Cal State San Marcos-bound Chloe Eackles. Topper finished with 17 points, Hackson added 16 points and the 5-10 senior wing Eackles had 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Sophomore Briana Claros had 11 points but left the game with an apparent knee injury. According to head coach Doc Scheppler, the knee is swollen and she will have an MRI and visit with the doctor early this week. Freshman sensation Hannah Jump had 10 points but none after halftime.
Campolindo (Moraga) 65, South San Francisco 49
Not only did Lamorinda Classic co-host Campolindo (15-3) post a very solid win over the girls from South City, the young Cougars had an outstanding week and stamped themselves as the No. 2 team behind Miramonte in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League.
Prior to the win on Saturday, the Cougars were victorious on Friday night when they travelled to league rival Acalanes and posted a 78-65 win that gave them a 3-1 record in league.
The same girl led the way in both wins and that is outstanding sophomore Haley Van Dyke. Against South San Francisco she had 18 points and 19 rebounds with five steals and four assists. Against Acalanes the 6-foot wing had 22 points with 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals.
The coaches’ daughter and long-range shooter Ashley Thoms hit three 3-pointers against South City and finished with 15 points. She had 16 points in the Acalanes win. Another sophomore, 5-10 wing Jessi O’Reilly, had 16 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and five assists against Acalanes, and although she didn’t hit double-figure scoring in the Saturday win O’Reilly did have nine points, nine rebounds and five steals.
South San Francisco (10-7) got an outstanding performance from sophomore Sacred Heart Cathedral transfer Brittney Cedeno. She bothered Campo early on and finished with 13 points, nine steals, six rebounds and four assists, with seven first-half steals.
“The big positive of this game was we were a little flat with all the emotion of the Acalanes game but even when we don’t play our best we still came through,” said head coach Art Thoms III, whose father Art Thoms played eight years with the Oakland Raiders.
Thoms would appear to have a strong group going forward with a roster that has nine underclass players and only one senior contributor.
Castro Valley 58, Encinal (Alameda) 49
In one of the more interesting and entertaining match-ups, Castro Valley (18-2) withstood an outstanding first half performance by Encinal’s Destiny Kelly because their own star Nina Bessolo and her teammates came though big-time down the stretch.
Trailing 45-38 in the early fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by Kelly, the 6-foot-1 UC Davis-committed Bessolo took over and scored 13 of her team-high 26 points (16 rebounds, four steals) from that point on. Sophomore guard Bailey Jones (16 points, four assists) drilled a 3-pointer with 2:40 left to cut it to 49-48, and from there Bessolo powered to the basket and followed that up with a 3-pointer from the top of the key that pretty much sealed the deal and gave the Trojans a 53-49 lead. Castro Valley ended the game on a 13-0 run in the final 4 minutes.
Junior Giana Wright joined Bessolo with a double-double after finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds with four steals.
Kelly finished with 34 points (13 rebounds) but 23 of them were in a first half that saw the Jets with a 28-20 lead.
“We allowed Kelly to light us up in the first half because we were lazy,” said nine-year Castro Valley head coach Jim Lemmon. “We picked it up in the second half but we need to play complete games. Hopefully we learn from this game.”
The way things are shaping up Castro Valley is looking like a serious contender in Division I in Northern California. Their power ranking is a little down due to a loss early on to Pittsburg, but that was before Bessolo, a transfer from Dublin Valley Christian and a member of the Cal Stars Nike national champions, was eligible.
Since then, the only loss was 72-61 to Bishop O’Dowd in a game the Trojans were in most of the way and where Bessolo had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Heritage (Brentwood) 57, Clayton Valley (Concord) 37
Sophomore Mikaila Wegenke had a game-high 16 points and up-and-coming freshman guard Jordan Sweeney added 10 points as a very young Heritage (11-7) broke an early 6-6 tie before taking control and extending its lead to the final buzzer. Kelly Osterkamp led Clayton Valley (8-11) with seven points.
Santa Rosa 48, Foothill (Pleasanton) 38
In a bit of a minor upset, Santa Rosa led from start to finish but only led 33-30 after three quarters before finally taking control midway through the final period.
Junior Emily Codding led Santa Rosa (11-8) after just missing a triple-double when she registered 17 points and 12 rebounds with nine blocks, while senior Mireya Lopez also double-doubled after finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Caroline McMorrow led Foothill (9-9) with 11 points.
Alameda 44, Pinole Valley (Pinole) 31
In the first of the seven games contested on Saturday, Alameda (8-7) got a double-double 19 points and 12 rebounds from 6-foot-2 senior Lisa Bertholdt while Pinole Valley (10-8) was led by Jessica Rogers with 12 points.
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