La Jolla Country Day School, winners of 2019 NIKE TOC Joe Smith Division (PC: Bob Corwin)
By Bob Corwin
The Joe Smith (top) Division of the 2019 NIKE Tournament of Champions (TOC) saw La Jolla Country Day School (LJCDS) of La Jolla, California, edge Sierra Canyon School of Chatsworth, California, by a score of 44-43. The John Anderson (second) Division (discussed in part 2) was won by Elizabeth Seton High School of Bladensburg, Maryland, by a score of 43-40 over Windward School of Los Angeles, California. Part three will center on the Clare Droesch Division (non-NFHS institutions) where Hamilton Heights Christian Academy of Chattanooga, Tennessee, conquered all, winning five games in a round robin set-up. Blair Academy of Blairstown, New Jersey, finished second losing only to Hamilton Heights.
The first two above divisions were comprised of 16 teams playing four games. The sites for the three above divisions were Desert Vista High School and Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Four lower divisions were played at these and other nearby high school venues with all games taking place between December 18-21, 2019. In its twenty-third annual addition, Tournament of Champions showcases top flight girls high school basketball action. Approximately 160 college coaches (mostly NCAA Division 1) from all over the country attended one or more days of the event which has NIKE as the presenting sponsor.
Taking a look at the action in the final…
La Jolla Country Day School (La Jolla, California) 44-43 Sierra Canyon School of Chatsworth, California
Before getting into the game, let us note that this was one of the rare (if not the first) times that two female coaches (here Terry Bamford of LJCDS and Alicia Komaki of Sierra Canyon) have met in the final of top division of the NIKE TOC.
In some ways this game typified this year’s Joe Smith Division action. In the opening round, a few teams that finished 1-3 almost beat teams going 3-1. So many games in the Smith Division were very competitive. In keeping with that, this game was decided in the last ten seconds.
The Joe Smith Division of the NIKE TOC is arguably the hardest test. in girls high school basketball with four tough games in four days. One consequence is often poor perimeter shooting and here we saw La Jolla’s shooters throw up first quarter blanks trailing 15-8 after one period. The second quarter saw Sierra Canyon throw up the blanks while Smith Division MVP Te-Hina Paopao (see below) posted all 11 of her first half points helping LJCDS to a 21-20 lead at the break. Sierra Canyon was more balanced with no player above five points in the half.
The third quarter ended 34 all as the Sierra Canyon perimeter offense was matched largely by LJCDS’s freshman post Breya Cunningham (see below) scoring near the rim. The lead was exchanged several times in the final stanza. With just over two minutes left, La Jolla led 40-39. Ironically it was the role players Alexis Mark (6-1, forward, 2020, of Sierra Canyon) and Jazzy Anousinh (5-7, guard, 2021, LJCDS) who exchanged the final four point of the game with Anousinh dropping in an unanswered running layup with about six seconds left.
Sierra Canyon was led by its star guards Ashley Chevalier (see below) and Vanessa De Jesus with 13 points each. In winning the contest, undefeated La Jolla Country Day made a strong case to be number 1 when each of the high school polls next comes out.
Below in alphabetical order (with listed height, graduation year and school) is the All-Tournament Team of the Joe Smith Division. Special thanks to Erik Boal, Clay Kallam, Shane Laflin and Dick Mateer who served with me on the all-tournament selections committee.
Vanessa De Jesus and Ashley Chevalier (#25) of Sierra Canyon School (PC: Bob Corwin)
NIKE Tournament of Champions 2019
Joe Smith Division All-Tournament Team
Ryanne Allen 6-1 2022 Archbishop Wood High School (Warminster, Pennsylvania)
Allen was profiled in a recent piece on the She Got Game Classic DC. Here she helped her team go 2-2 with her inside/outside play.
Aishah Brown 6-1 2020 Centennial High School (Las Vegas, Nevada)
A UC San Diego signee, Brown was a tireless rebounder for Centennial which went 1-3 with three of its games decided by five points total. She does her scoring near the rim.
Ashley Chevalier 5-7 2020 Sierra Canyon School (Chatsworth, California)
A Texas signee, Chevalier is one half of one of the best current high school guard duos in the USA. A lefty, she helps with the ball handling, will shoot the three or attack primarily going left.
Breya Cunningham 6-3 2023 La Jolla Country Day School (La Jolla, California)
Cunningham is one of the top centers in the 2023 class. A strong rebounder with good hands, she scores near the rim. Improving her foul shooting should be a top priority. She was the unofficial MVP of the championship game with her 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Te-Hina Paopao (#12) and Breya Cunningham (#25) of La Jolla Country Day School (PC: Bob Corwin)
Jayda Curry 5-6 2021 Centennial High School (Corona, California)
Curry may not be that well known outside Southern California butshe is very talented. Curry is athletic and has great range. While being her team’s primary ball handler, she posted eight threes’ in her team’s consolation final (went 3-1) win versus Grandview of Colorado. Power 5 programs should be monitoring this player.
Vanessa De Jesus 5-8 2020 Sierra Canyon School (Chatsworth, California)
A Duke signee, De Jesus is the other half of Sierra Canyon’s stellar guard duo. She has a sweet pull-up jumper and is capable of playing either guard slot.
Aaliyah Edwards 6-3 2020 Crestwood Preparatory College (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Edwards was profiled in an article on the Michigan Mega Scrimmage. A Connecticut signee, she posted 33 points in her team’s (went 2-2) comeback win versus Centennial of Nevada. She can shoot mid-range or get to the rim. She is also a good passer.
Ashley Hiraki 5-7 2020 Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, California)
An unsigned senior, Hiracki does a lot for her otherwise young team (went 2-2 in TOC). She helped with the ball handling and scored primarily on the perimeter shooting three’s, mid-range shots or getting out on the fast break.
Kaylah Ivy 5-8 2020 Riverdale Baptist School (Upper Marlboro, Maryland)
A Boston College signee, this combo guard plays hard. She looks to attack the basket as scoring option one. Her play helped Riverdale Baptist to a 3-1 record at the event.
Iyanna Lamb 5-6 2020 Long Beach Polytechnic High School (Long Beach, California)
An unsigned senior, Lamb was her one of her team’s point guard but also contributed to scoring hitting three’s. Her play helped Poly to a 2-2 record in Arizona.
Te-Hina Paopao (MVP) 5-10 2020 La Jolla Country Day School (La Jolla, California)
An Oregon signee, Paopao was the Smith Division MVP. She helps bring the ball up the court and scores via the three, pull-ups and attacking the rim. Perhaps her biggest game was a 25-point outing in a 62-54 semi-final win versus Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, California).
Delicia Pinnick 5-8 2020 New Hope Academy (Landover Hills, Maryland)
An unsigned senior, long-range shooter Pinnick had multiple three’s in several games in Arizona. Her play helped New Hope to a 5th place finish (3-1) in this division.