Girls of Summer: Return to Oregon City

Players from the North Bay Elite team of the Santa Rosa area got together to go on a unbeaten run at End of the Trail tourney in Oregon. Photo: Harold Abend.

Bay Area teams show strength at End of the Trail tourney, but much has changed in the girls basketball summer recruiting season since the last time our girls hoops lead analyst went there in 2005. North Bay Elite & San Jose Cagers shined most, but Bulldawgs Basketball Black of Daly City also did well.


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My, how time flies.

It seems like only yesterday but in reality it was 18 years ago that the Girls of Summer Caravan was born, and the place of its birth was in the greater Portland, Oregon area.

The year was 2005 when we received an invite to evaluate the top players in the nation using what was then new evaluation protocols called SPARQ (Speed Power Agility Reaction Quickness) at the four-day Nike Elite Skills Academy held at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton.

The SPARQ testing had been used in football and boys basketball but this would be the first time girls basketball players would be evaluated using the protocols, and Nike invited the best underclass players in the nation at the time to Oregon to be put through the paces. This also was in the days when Cal-Hi Sports was part of the Student Sports national magazine and events company.

Maya Moore from Georgia was the top player of the 22 invited to the skills academy, current WNBA All Star Elena Delle Donne from Delaware was invited but couldn’t play due to injury, and 2006 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Jacki Gemelos of St. Mary’s (Stockton) and Jayne Appel of Concord Carondelet were the two players from California invited to compete.

From Beaverton that year, we headed to Oregon City where several of the 22 players selected for the skills academy competed in the End of the Trail tournament, at the time one of just a handful of NCAA Certified Viewing Period events on the West Coast.

In 2005, there were 192 teams competing at the End of the Trail and the National or top division was won by Boo Williams, 61-57, over Georgia Metro and its superstar Moore.

A whole lot has changed in girls basketball since 2005 but one thing hasn’t changed, and that is Moore is still the most complete girls high school basketball player we ever evaluated, and Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) and San Jose Cagers head coach Sue Phillips agrees. Phillips also agrees that Moore, Delle Donne and Gemelos are three of the top five all-time greatest players in girls basketball history. All those knee injuries that hit Jackie, beginning right at the end of her senior year at St. Mary’s, just prevented her from being one of the WNBA’s top stars.

One of the big changes is that the End of the Trail is not the premier NCAA Viewing event like it was back then, and the Nike Elite Skills Academy is long gone. They’ve been replaced by the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) Nike Nationals and the Adidas national championships.

However, the one thing no one can take away from the End of the Trail is it has truly been a trailblazer and continues to be hosted by Oregon City High with several other close-by venues. The nation’s top players may have been at one of the big national tournaments sponsored by the shoe companies, but for the longest standing summer girls basketball tournament in the Western United States, the 110 teams that gathered in the Portland suburbs last weekend for a tournament that started in 1979, there was no shortage of talent on display for the several dozen college coaches that came to view the event.

It was another successful trip for San Jose Cagers at Oregon event. Photo: Harold Abend.

Bay Area teams dominate 2023 End of the Trail

Unlike back in 2005, when the elite national teams were competing, the 2023 End of the Trail was split into three divisions. In Division 1, 45 top teams were placed in seven pools. Each team in Pools A through F played five games with the winners of each pool playing in one of three crossover championship games.

In the end, three Bay Area teams made the final six to play for a championship on Monday with North Bay Elite, consisting of players mostly from Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa and coached by Cardinals head coach Monica Mertle, going 6-0 to claim one on the tourney titles.

Despite being without incoming Newman junior Brazilian phenom Taissa “Tissa” Queiroz, who is playing for the Brazilian U19 National Team at the World Cup in Madrid, Spain, and Newman incoming senior Kaida Angelo, or Newman incoming sophomore Jordyn Johnsen, who was away playing top-notch travel softball, NB Elite was one of only two teams in Division 1 to go 6-0, and in observing the other 6-0 team, Oregon Overtime Gold, we felt NB Elite played a tougher schedule and was the best team at the End of the Trail.

In the championship game against Co Force Sapphire, made up of players from Northern Oregon and Southern Washington, NB Elite bolted out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back en route to a 49-33 victory.

Of all six games, the championship match-up had the most balanced scoring for NB Elite but it was still incoming Newman junior guard Kate Schat who led the way with 12 points (three three-pointers) and three assists.

Schat, who coming into the End of the Trail had interest from San Francisco, San Diego, Pacific, CSU Fullerton and Columbia, continues to improve her stock and was by our analysis one of the top two players in Oregon. She also continues to solidify her position as one of the top incoming juniors in Northern California.

Despite three of the games going to a running clock, Schat still finished with 125 points and 23 three-pointers for the six games. Her best game was against Flight Basketball of Washington. In that game, she outscored Flight 26-18 herself in the first half with five three-pointers. The entire second half of a 47-30 victory was played in a running clock and Schat finished with 29 points on six three-pointers. In that game as well as all six games, Schat showed off an ability to finish with her left hand.

Ruiqi Liu had a breakout freshman season at Menlo School. Photo:

A NB Elite player who showed she can contribute without scoring a lot was incoming Newman senior guard Leah Martinez. Despite being only 5-foot-8, she led NB Elite in rebounding almost every game, brought the ball up against the press and played exceptional defense.

Incoming Newman senior guard Natalie Rosetti, and incoming Newman senior power forward Janelle Pena, each had more than one solid outing, and incoming Newman senior guard Leah Mauritson flashed some solid play. Even incoming Newman freshman Macie Flores got into the act with her outside shooting. She connected on three three-pointers in the title game against Co Force Sapphire.

“The End of the Trail was a great experience for our team,” Mertle remarked. “It was particularly good for our younger players who were able to fill bigger roles due to having a smaller roster.

“I thought the leadership from our upperclassmen was fantastic and I’m very proud of the girls for being able to maintain their focus throughout the six games.”

The other Bay Area team to win a championship, San Jose Cagers Blue, composed mostly of players from Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and coached by Phillips, was missing even more star power than NB Elite. Connecticut-committed incoming senior Morgan Cheli, 2023 state freshman of the Year McKenna Woliczko, incoming senior Belle Bramer and incoming senior Elena Weisman, were all playing in other events for other club teams.

After falling behind 25-6, the Cagers lost a game, 51-45, to Northwest Blazers – Morrison 15U, but that team lost a game in pool play, 51-49, to an Incline Frenchies Navy team the Cagers defeated 62-41, so in a tie-breaker the Cagers won the pool based on point differential.

Winning the pool sent them into a championship game with a Bulldawgs Basketball Black based out of Daly City.

The Cagers led 31-16 in the first half but the Bulldawgs went on an 8-2 run to close it to 33-24 after the first of two 16-minute halves. The Cagers opened the second half with a 7-2 run to extend the lead to 40-26, but went ice cold and the Bulldawgs went on a 24-10 run to take a 52-50 lead with less than a minute remaining. From there, however, the Cagers scored the last four points to pull out a 54-52 victory. Incoming Mitty junior guard Jordan Bowar scored to tie it, and the winning points came on a pair of free-throws by incoming Mitty sophomore guard Caleigh Clarke.

With all the Cagers’ big names absent, it gave incoming Mitty sophomore Emma Cook the opportunity to take the spotlight and she shined pretty bright. In fact, in our evaluation process, Cook was the second-best or even arguably the best player at the End of the Trail along with Schat of North Bay Elite. At one point with the Cagers unable to get a shot to drop, Cook scored 11 of the Cagers’ 13 points to close out the first half. She only had the two free-throws in the second half but still ended up with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four steals. With her performances in the three games we evaluated her, Cook looks like she will be a major contributor for Phillips and Mitty, and if she’s able to blossom could be one of the better sophomores in Northern California this coming season. She already has an offer from San Francisco before even playing a game as a sophomore and more offers are around the corner.

“I was incredibly impressed with Emma’s competitiveness and ability to play with such decisive force,” said Phillips about Cook’s performances in Oregon.

Several other Cagers players stood out and will be included in the Girls of Summer final evaluations once the July NCAA Viewing period is over. Jordan Bowar, an incoming junior guard from Mitty with an offer from San Jose State she picked up at Girls California Live 23, is a floor general who will blossom further. Incoming Mitty junior guard Niyati Bangalore is a speedster that can shoot the three-pointer. Clarke also had 10 points against the Bulldawgs and as an incoming sophomore who benefitted from getting a lot of playing time at the End of the Trail. Another player who benefitted by getting a lot of action in Oregon was incoming Carlmont (Belmont) senior forward Alessandra Nelson. Rounding out the Cagers players that made an impression in Oregon was Sadie Slaughter, an incoming junior guard from Prospect of San Jose.

The Bulldawgs, coached by Alfonso Joo and City College of San Francisco assistant coach Tiffany Mariano, are a true club team with the 12-player roster coming from 10 different schools.

Several Bulldawgs’ players stood out in the two games where we evaluated them. The highest evaluation went to Marin Catholic (Kentfield) incoming junior guard Isabelle McFadden. She had 10 points against the Cagers and keyed the defense that propelled both the first and second half comebacks. Ruiqi Liu, an incoming junior guard at Menlo (Atherton), can shoot the three-pointer and handles the ball with either hand. Two of the Bulldawgs’ bigs played well in both games we saw. They were Claire Galbo, a 6-foot-1 incoming senior at Los Gatos, and 6-foot-1 Madison Eade, an incoming junior at San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral. Another Sacred Heart Cathedral player who looked good in both games was incoming junior guard Aniyah Versosa.

We now enter the “dead period” between the two halves of the July NCAA Viewing Period.

For the second half of the viewing period the Girls of Summer Caravan will head to Southern California to cover two events. Pat Woodward, who took over managing the End of the Trail events from legendary Carl Tinsley in 2017, moves on to Seal Beach where from July 21-24 he hosts the EOT Summer Swoosh. Also, from July 21-24 we will cover the Hype Her Hoops: The Big Dance at Ladera Ranch near Mission Viejo.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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