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Tampa Bay Christmas Invitational 2023 (part 2): St. Thomas Aquinas marches through ENG Bracket

By Bob Corwin, 01/04/24, 8:15PM PST


St. Thomas Aquinas High School, champions of the ENG Bracket of the Tampa Bay Christmas Invitational (PC: Johnny with 941Visuals)

In part 2 of my Tampa Bay Christmas Invitational review, the ENG (second bracket) will be discussed. For background on this year’s event, see part 1 previously posted.

ENG Bracket Final: St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) 59-35 Cardinal Mooney High School (Bradenton, Florida)

This game hardly lived up to final’s billing.  Cardinal Mooney needs to be commended for quality wins over perennial New Jersey power St. John Vianney (54-51) in round one and a young, talented American Heritage Plantation (64-52) in round 2.  However, this was never really a competitive contest game in much of the second half (behind 26-19 at the break).  In the third quarter, Mooney scored but nine points to St. Thomas’s 16.  Be it tired legs or facing better athletes, Mooney just faded away in quarter 4 being outscored 17-7, creating what ended in close to a blowout.

Bracket MVP Khadee Hession [Georgetown commit] of St. Thomas dominated the game with 25 points. Hession did much more than just score as she was the primary ball handler and a strong perimeter defender. Cardinal Mooney was led by freshman forward Madeline Mignery with 19 points.

In the week leading up to the event, St. Thomas Aquinas Coach Oliver Berens campaigned for a top division slot in Tampa but had suffered two early season losses and the bracketing committee felt other Florida-based teams deserved those slots in the She Got Game Bracket [plus no team wanted to opt out late].  Considering the three solid wins in the ENG Bracket, one can say that his team could be argued to proving they deserved one of the She Got Game Bracket slots.

St. Thomas Aquinas Coach Oliver Berens on Bracket MVP Khadee Hession:

“Khadee has been a tremendous leader for us all year and is having an outstanding season.  That continued in Tampa where she had three straight 20-point performances capped by a 25-point outing vs Cardinal Mooney in the championship.”  

ENG Bracket All-tournament Team

Jade Adeyemi, 5-6, guard, 2024, St. Vincent Pallotti High School (MD)

Kali Barrett, 6-1, forward, 2025, Cardinal Mooney High School (FL)

Jasleen Green, 5-8, guard, 2026, American Heritage Plantation (FL)

Khadee Hession, 5-8, point guard, 2024, St. Thomas Aquinas High School (FL) Bracket MVP

Ka-zahria Johnson, 6-1, forward, 2024, St. Thomas Aquinas High School (FL)

Madison Kocis, 5-11, guard, 2026, Saint John Vianney High School (NJ)

Kiara Williams, 6-0, power forward, 2024, Palm Bay High School (FL)

Khadee Hession, MVP of the ENG Bracket of the Tampa Bay Christmas Invitational (PC: Johnny with 941Visuals)