Nike TOC Title Goes To Mitty

A national audience on ESPNU saw the back-and-forth battle that Archbishop Mitty was able to win on Thursday over Long Island Lutheran. Photo: Erik Boal.

Girls from San Jose win the elite division in nation’s most prestigious tournament over the defending champion, the team they lost to in the quarterfinals last year, and now in line to take over No. 1 national ranking. Sophomore McKenna Woliczko named MVP. Ontario Christian also gets win over Mater Dei in top division. Windward loses, but Fairmont Prep wins in title games of the next two highest divisions. Full recap here.

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For nearly two hours Thursday night in the Vincent Cannizzaro Division final of the 26th Nike Tournament of Champions, the girls basketball teams from Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and Long Island Lutheran in New York continued to ask, if not demand of one another, “Can you top this?”

For two possessions in the final 15 seconds at Legacy Sports Complex on the Arizona Athletic Grounds in Mesa, the Monarchs found themselves wondering, “Can you stop them?”

In one of the most remarkable offensive showcases in tournament history that produced 10 ties during the contest and 10 fourth-quarter lead changes, Archbishop Mitty relied on two significant defensive stops down the stretch following a pair of Morgan Cheli free throws that gave the Monarchs the lead with 16 seconds remaining to outlast defending champion and national top-ranked Long Island Lutheran with a 73-72 victory.

“It was awesome. Honestly, it was surreal,” said Cheli, a University of Connecticut commit who earned all-tournament honors after contributing 17 points and 11 rebounds in the final. “For all of us to contribute, and to play so hard and get the win, it means so much.”

Mitty’s all-tourney honorees were Morgan Cheli, MVP McKenna Woliczko and Belle Bramer. Photo: @mitty_wbb /

Archbishop Mitty (7-0), which entered the game No. 3 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports but will likely move to No. 1 in the next rankings, was embracing its third all-time matchup with Long Island Lutheran (9-1) as a potential showdown of the top two teams in the country. This was especially true after Florida powers IMG Academy (11-1) and Montverde Academy (9-1) – both national top five programs entering the event – suffered losses earlier in the tournament.

The Monarchs, who secured a title in the elite bracket at Nike TOC for the third time in program history following victories in the Joe Smith Division in 1999 and 2017, are expected to be recognized next week as the nation’s new No. 1 team by ESPN after arriving in Arizona as the seventh-ranked team in the country.

“It was incredible to be on this stage. Thanks to Nike TOC for putting on the tournament, ESPN for all the coverage and to be a part of this, what a terrific game,” said Archbishop Mitty coach Sue Phillips, a 2024 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who improved to 796-137 in her 30-year career with the Monarchs.

“Credit to LuHi, they’re an outstanding team. The game could have gone either way and we were fortunate to be on the winning end. We happened to get two defensive stops late and credit to the girls for knocking down some big shots.”

Archbishop Mitty, which endured a 70-48 loss playing with a short-handed lineup as a result of injuries against Long Island Lutheran in last year’s Vincent Cannizzaro Division quarterfinals in Arizona, needed to rely on four players in double figures – led by 22 points and eight rebounds from tournament MVP McKenna Woliczko – in the rematch Thursday in order to prevail against the Crusaders.

“We just kept fighting as a team. We have a really competitive mindset. We just all pushed through no matter what was happening and we’re glad to get the win,” said Woliczko, who scored 91 points in the tournament and was the only athlete in the entire division with at least 20 points in all four games.

“It’s really cool to see what we can do as a team. Obviously with losing six seniors from last year, we were missing people, but we’ve also gained so much more. As a team, we’ve grown from day one of practice until now and it’s fun to see how we competed this week and we’ll continue to see how we progress.”

The Monarchs were able to force a jump ball on the ensuing Long Island Lutheran offensive series after Cheli’s free throws, earning a new possession.

Following a steal by last year’s tournament MVP Kayleigh Heckel, the Crusaders had one last opportunity with 3.2 seconds remaining, but Syla Swords’ off-balance attempt from 10 feet fell short as time expired and Long Island Lutheran was unable to complete its pursuit of becoming the first team since Mater Dei of Santa Ana from 2012-14 to win consecutive Nike TOC titles in the top division.

“Our theme is a term called ‘relentless,’ and it’s a relentless mindset, and that has to do with our attitude and our work ethic and the way that we respond to adversity, so we truly try to embody that every time out and I thought tonight we were relentless,” said Phillips, whose team led 42-39 at halftime.

“We knew we needed to match them offensively and we knew that we would have a really tough time defending them. It was just a treat to finish this game the way we did and end up on the winning end.”

The Monarchs received timely contributions in the final three minutes from all-tournament selection Belle Bramer, a Lehigh commit who had 13 points, along with Abigail James and Bucknell-bound Elana Weisman, who converted a three-point play to give Archbishop Mitty a 71-70 lead with 49 seconds left.

Syla Swords, an all-tournament honoree, gave the Crusaders their final advantage at 72-71 following a jump shot with 29 seconds remaining. Swords had 16 points, with fellow all-tournament selections Lauryn Swann (18 points) and Heckel (17 points) contributing to four Long Island Lutheran players in double figures.

McKenna Woliczko is shown after she cut down part of the net at the Nike TOC in Arizona. Photo: Erik Boal.

Cheli was fouled on a drive to the basket along the left wing on the Monarchs’ next offensive possession and calmly sank both free throws to account for the final margin after Archbishop Mitty rallied from a 54-51 deficit entering the fourth quarter.

“Personally because I missed out last year, this meant even more, but for all of us collectively, we wanted it so bad and I think we proved that tonight,” Cheli said. “I think we’ve grown a lot. We’ve shown a lot of our strengths and also our weaknesses and what we can improve upon, and I’m just really proud of the group, to be honest. It’s awesome just thinking how far we can still come in the next few months. It’s pretty crazy that this is where we are now and I can’t wait to see how much we get better and improve.”

After playing only three games before traveling to Arizona, Archbishop Mitty defeated Miami Country Day of Florida, Xavier College Prep from Arizona and Crestwood Preparatory College – the top-ranked program in Canada that finished third overall in the 16-team division – by an average margin of 24 points to advance to its first Nike TOC final since defeating Stockton St. Mary’s by a 57-50 margin in 2017 in the Joe Smith Division championship game.

“While we had a shootaround, when it comes to LuHi, you need weeks to prepare for a team like them,” Phillips said. “We just did our best to stay true to some of our foundational schemes, offensively and defensively, and clearly they got loose in transition and we had some missed coverages and communication errors, which we need to grow upon, so there’s still some hiccups that need to be managed before we expect to make some noise in March.”

The Monarchs won’t have much time to celebrate with an upcoming trip to Portland for the annual Holiday Classic, competing in an Open Division bracket that includes Etiwanda and Mater Dei, along with an opening pool-play matchup Dec. 28 against Texas power DeSoto High.

But Archbishop Mitty, which fell just short of a potential seventh California state championship in Phillips’ tenure in a 69-67 loss last season to Etiwanda in the Open Division final, got some early practice climbing the ladder and cutting down the net in Arizona, possibly foreshadowing a similar scenario in March at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

“I don’t know about that. Right now, it’s just for today,” Phillips said with a smile.

“We really just tried to focus on the present and to be where our feet are and make the most of today, regardless of what it said on the scoreboard. We were determined to get better today and that’s why we were incredibly grateful to play a team like LuHi for that type of challenge. We’re just savoring the moment and the win. There was nothing about looking back or forward, for that matter.”

More From The Top Division At The TOC

Ontario Christian (9-3) celebrated one of the biggest moments in its program history Thursday with a 60-58 victory against Mater Dei of Santa Ana (10-4) in the 13th-place game of the Vincent Cannizzaro Division.

Freshman point guard Kaleena Smith, who earned all-tournament honors, led the Knights with 26 points and was the division’s overall scoring leader, accumulating 98 points in four games.

Smith made the deciding two free throws with 5.5 seconds left and senior Karsen Marshall added 22 points, including 17 in the first half, for Ontario Christian.

Mater Dei, which played without Duke commit Jenessa Cotton (sore back) and had junior Addison Deal sidelined in the second half with an ankle injury, was led by 14 points from all-tournament selection Kaeli Wynn, along with 13 points apiece from Deyvn Kiernan and Emily Shaw.

Folsom (8-2) suffered a 62-54 setback Thursday to IMG Academy in the Vincent Cannizzaro Division consolation final, despite 22 points from Cal commit and all-tournament honoree Kamryn Mafua.


Bullis School (Maryland) 66, Windward (Los Angeles) 31

After producing one of the most thrilling tournament runs in any division to reach their first final in Arizona since 2018, the Wildcats (11-4) ran out of steam against Bullis (7-1), which punctuated its first Nike TOC championship with a 23-point fourth-quarter effort.

Windward scored the final 11 points in the last 1:40 in a 70-61 quarterfinal victory Tuesday against another Maryland program, Riverdale Baptist, then withstood a 43-point performance from Texas commit Jordan Lee in a 65-62 semifinal win Wednesday over St. Mary’s of Stockton.

Here’s part of the group from Windward of Los Angeles that had a great week in Arizona despite loss in title game of their division. Photo: Erik Boal.

But the clutch 3-point shooting, quick-strike offense and timely second-chance points that carried the Wildcats earlier in the tournament were neutralized by the Bulldogs, who were led by freshman Ivanna Wilson Manyacka, selected division MVP after recording 21 points and seven rebounds in the final.

“This is why we came to Arizona to play top teams and to get exposed in areas that we need to grow and that way, when we go back to California, we know where we stand, to know what’s working and what isn’t and how do we get better from here,” Windward coach Rachel Schrote said. “Everybody kind of underestimates us when they look at us. We don’t pass the eye test, but we play hard and we play together, and we play for each other.”

Olivia Lagao, an all-tournament selection, had 11 first-half points to help the Wildcats remain within striking distance as they trailed 31-20 at the break.

But Bullis stretched the advantage to 16 entering the fourth quarter and Windward – which last won a division title at Nike TOC in 2012 – couldn’t muster another inspired effort down the stretch like it had in victories against Willamette of Oregon, Riverdale Baptist and St. Mary’s of Stockton.

Lagao had 64 points in four tournament games and fellow junior Samari Bankhead, another all-tournament pick, contributed 62 points for the Wildcats, including seven in the championship game.

Lee capped one of the most exceptional four-day stretches in tournament history with 32 points for St. Mary’s of Stockton (9-2), including 23 in the second half, in a 68-55 victory in the third-place game against Cherokee Trail from Colorado.

Lee led all athletes across seven tournament divisions at Nike TOC with 112 points, including her incredible fourth-quarter showcase Wednesday against Windward.

St. Mary’s trailed 57-35 with seven minutes remaining, before Lee scored 11 consecutive points and 23 of the Rams’ 27 in the fourth quarter, finishing with 31 in the second half.

Lee, who nearly matched her career-high 47 from last season against Oakland Tech, had a potential tying 3-pointer from the left wing with two seconds left fall just short, allowing Windward to survive the Rams’ impressive comeback.

Bishop Montgomery of Torrance (9-3) and Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland (6-3) finished sixth and seventh in the 16-team division.

Bishop Montgomery, led by all-tournament selection Tiara Jones, secured a 57-33 victory Wednesday against Bishop O’Dowd. Jones also scored 14 points in a 55-43 setback Thursday in the fifth-place game against Desert Vista of Arizona.

Devin Cosgriff, an all-tournament honoree, helped Bishop O’Dowd rebound Thursday with 13 points in a 48-45 triumph against Riverdale Baptist.

In the only regular-season meeting scheduled for the San Diego Section rivals, Mission Hills of San Marcos prevailed 62-47 in Wednesday’s consolation semifinals against La Jolla Country Day to achieve its first victory against the Torreys since 2019, snapping a run of six consecutive losses in the series.

“It’s really special and I’m very proud of them,” Mission Hills coach Chris Kroesch said. “I think this is the best girls basketball rivalry in the history of San Diego County. There were a couple of years where we had their number, and the last couple of years, they’ve had ours, so it’s exciting for the game.

“Usually, if we played in San Diego, it would be a sold-out gym, but it just so happens this time to be in Phoenix. My girls really wanted the game and they were excited for it and I know Terri (Bamford) and Country Day were as well. I told my girls to be proud of themselves and to be happy, but we’re going to see them again (in the San Diego Section Open Division playoffs). We’re almost assured of it.”

Kyara Walter, an all-tournament selection, had a game-high 26 points against La Jolla Country Day, with fellow senior Maria Gorbushin adding 13 points for the Grizzlies, who made 11 3-point field goals in the game and finished the tournament with 46 overall as a team.

Naomi Panganiban, an all-tournament honoree, led the Torreys with 18 points and Safiyah Sugapong scored 10 points against Mission Hills.

La Jolla Country Day produced a 55-47 win Thursday against Hamilton High from Arizona in the 11th-place game, with Panganiban scoring a game-high 19 points.

Mission Hills suffered a 77-61 setback Thursday to Las Vegas Centennial in the division’s consolation final, with Gorbushin contributing 13 points and Walter adding 11 points for the Grizzlies.

Fairmont Prep of Anaheim players and coaches collected a championship banner in one of the top divisions at this year’s Nike TOC. Photo: Erik Boal.


Fairmont Prep (Anaheim) 54, Long Beach Poly 31

Whether it was the residual sting of losing to the Jackrabbits in the quarterfinals of the 2022 CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs or the fact that the Huskies had never beaten Long Beach Poly in three previous meetings, Fairmont Prep (11-3) was highly motivated for its championship opportunity and it showed against one of the most decorated programs in Nike TOC history.

The Huskies led by 24 points at halftime and built a 41-11 advantage with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter, relying on a game-high 17 points from sophomore Adyra Rajan, the division MVP.

“We have such great chemistry and we all want it really bad and so it’s really great to get this win,” said Rajan, who accumulated 62 points in four tournament games, including 15 in a 55-47 semifinal victory Wednesday against Westview of San Diego.

“All of our games here have been pretty close so far, so for the championship game, for us to be so locked in and dialed in the whole time, we all felt really proud and I’m just really happy about this win and I’m really proud of all my teammates. I think we grew a lot. We all knew we would do anything we could to get here and we’re here now. It’s the first of many (titles).”

Sarah Aldeguer added 11 points and senior Jazzy Mercado contributed nine points for the Huskies, both earning all-tournament honors. Aldeguer, a sophomore, had 48 points for the event and Mercado contributed 32 points overall.

“What it came down to was our will. I don’t think we were the most skilled or the most athletic or the fastest, but we had the most heart this week,” Fairmont Prep first-year coach Josh Lozano said. “As long as we reach our potential and build some chemistry and work hard, I’ll live with the outcome. They did that, just exactly like I wanted them to and the outcome was a championship. Now we know that when we’re at our potential and we build chemistry and we work together, we’re hard to beat.

“We can get rolling now and we know what we need to do as a team to have success in the playoffs and in our league and for the rest of our season.”

Long Beach Poly (5-4) twice cut the deficit to 18 in the fourth quarter, but never got any closer. The Jackrabbits, competing in their fourth different division final in Nike TOC history, were led by 11 points from all-tournament selection Jordyn Washington.

Brooklyn Taylor, another all-tournament honoree, added nine points for the Jackrabbits, who outlasted Highlands Ranch of Colorado with a 62-56 overtime victory in Wednesday’s semifinals.

Westview of San Diego (10-2) rebounded to edge Highlands Ranch 36-33 in the third-place game Thursday, led by 11 points from senior Sydney Heyn.


Carondelet (Concord) 63, Park Hill South (Missouri) 35

Following a 44-36 setback to eventual division champion Bob Jones from Alabama in Wednesday’s semifinals, the Cougars (10-1) responded in impressive fashion in the third-place game behind 15 points from Kesha Vitalicio.

Freshman Phoebe Weaver added 12 points and Layla Dixon contributed 10 points for Carondelet, which produced a 56-45 victory against Corona Centennial in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

Dixon scored 45 points in four games and Vitalicio contributed 40 points overall for the Cougars, who secured a third consecutive top-three finish in Arizona after placing runner-up last season to Las Vegas Centennial in the John Anderson Division and winning the 2021 title in the Mike Desper Division with a 58-57 victory against St. Ignatius of San Francisco.


Columbine (Colorado) 44, Alemany (Mission Hills) 36

The Warriors (7-5) had won seven straight games in Arizona including last season, but a stretch of 14 consecutive missed shots to open the second half derailed their quest to capture back-to-back Nike TOC titles.

After being tied at 23-23 at halftime, Alemany managed only four free throws in the third quarter and endured a stretch of more than 13 minutes in the second half without a field goal, allowing Columbine (8-3) to build an 11-point advantage behind all-tournament selection Emily Allison, who had a game-high 26 points. Jordyn Washington, the division MVP, added seven points for the Rebels.

Delilah Caudillo, an all-tournament selection who had 10 points, helped the Warriors pull to within 40-34 on a 3-pointer with 1:13 remaining. Kate Hackney, another all-tournament pick for Alemany, added nine points.

Hackney had 24 points in a 37-33 semifinal victory Wednesday against Rolling Hills Prep of San Pedro and finished with 47 points in the tournament. Caudillo, who led the Warriors to a 39-36 quarterfinal win Tuesday against St. Mary’s of Texas, contributed 38 points in four games.


Skutt Catholic (Nebraska) 66, Francis Parker (San Diego) 40

After allowing only 21 points to Omaha Westside in their semifinal victory Wednesday, the Lancers (6-5) surrendered 23 points in the opening quarter in the championship game against another top Nebraska program and never recovered.

Molly Ladwig, an all-tournament selection, had a game-high 21 points and division MVP Mia McMahon scored 14 points for Skutt Catholic (6-0), which won all four games by an average margin of 21.

Freshman Brieana Brown had 15 points to earn all-tournament honors for Francis Parker, accumulating 61 points in four contests. Gianna Ong, another freshman, was also an all-tournament selection after scoring 12 points and finishing with 45 overall for the event, helping the Lancers also prevail against Mesa High of Arizona and Faith Lutheran from Nevada.

Erik Boal has covered high school sports in California for 25 years, formerly serving as editor at the Glendale News-Press and Los Angeles Daily News. He is currently the editor for and, which focus on track and field, cross country and road racing, but has been a regular attendee at major Southern California high school sports events plus the Nike TOC since the early 2000s.

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