Grand Finale Summer Showcase
As the end of the AAU summer season drew to a close, 96 teams flocked to the Misty May Treanor Sports Complex to make one last bid to draw the attention of college coaches in the California Storm’s Inaugural Grand Finale event. Dreams of playing college basketball filled the facility as both college coaches and fans were treated to hard fought and well played basketball games. Players brought forth their best efforts in order to grab the brass ring and gain a college basketball offer.
College coaches from across the country made the journey to find that impact player for their programs. They came from near and far as the event attracted college coaches from as close by as Concordia University to NYU. Powerhouse programs also took note and showed up to find that player to make push their programs over the top. Teams from conferences like the PAC-12, Big 12, Big East, WCC and others came searching to complete their rosters and search for the next impact player. So without further ado, the highlights from the tournament by division.
The division had 2 pools, each team playing 3 games in their pool determine seeding. The first and second place teams vying for the title in bracket play. All teams were guaranteed 5 games.
In the Maya Moore pool, the Tucson Rattlers were the team to watch. They handled their opponent in their pool with great execution and poise. They surgically took apart teams defenses to big wins. Proving that they deserved a place in the final four. In the final four, they squared off against a good TVT team, but in the end the Rattlers were just too much team. The TVT blue team fell to them 34-27.
In the Noelle Quinn pool, a new comer to the So Cal events, the Northwest Stars from Washington, were able to survive pool play with excellent passing and strong defense. In the semi-final they held of a very good 3rd World basketball club to setup a final between the two out of state visitors.
In the final, the Tucson rattlers and a very game and tough Northwest Stars did not disappoint their large and vocal fans. The game was the last one of the night and fans were thrilled to watch this tightly contested game. Ultimately it was the Tucson Rattler were able to put away the Northwest Stars with a huge 3-pointer from the corner with 1:20 to go. Congratulations to the Tucson Rattlers. What a great job by both these organizations and their coaching staffs. We hope that they will be a staple in years to come.
This division more than any other was highlighted by the amount of defense that was played. In the two pools, the winners of the pool played great defense that propelled them to the top. The old adage offense wins’ games, but defense wins’ championships was not lost on this division. While some of the scores look like there were a bit lopsided, it was due to the great defense that was being played. Of the teams in the two pools, the two best were Northwest Stars 15 Navy, and Tree of Hope, from Washington. These teams gave a clinic on how to play help side defense and transition basketball.
The Northwest Stars simple put teams in lockdown in their pool. Their smothering pressure and defensive rotations were on point. They ran outstanding offensive sets and were rewarded for their precision time and time again with easy buckets. They simply locked down the opposition to capture the Tina Charles Pool.
In the Lisa Leslie pool, Tree of Hope was putting on their own defensive clinic. They held their opponents to 25 points a game, while averaging in the mid 40’s. Their pressure and transition defense was outstanding. It led to easy conversation on the offensive side of the ball. All this setup the matchup between the 2 defensive juggernauts.
In the championship game, Tree of Hope was able to slow down the Northwest Stars offense, but in the end it was the Northwest’s defense that proved to be the difference as Tree of Hope could not get anything going and the Northwest Stars defeated a very good Tree of Hope 33-22. A great game and a clinic all tournament about how to play good defense.
Again in this division out of state teams really made their mark in this division. Clutch Basketball Lava, Se Soia and Oregon Elite Red were outstanding all tournament. They joined a very good and tough team in the EBO Basketball Grey from San Diego. All though this division had great teams, those 4 stood out and earned top honors.
In the Alana Beard pool, Clutch Lava and Se Soia were able to outlast the rest if the pool. Clutch and Se Soia were able to defeat a very strong and worth team in the Idaho Flash, as well as the local underdogs West Coast Dream, who have made tremendous strides all summer long. In the pool determining game it was a very strong team in Se Soia who pulled off a 5-point victory to take the pool. Se Soia is a team to watch in the future. The team out of Utah are very young and have excellent guard play as well as a dominate post player who is just a freshman.
In the Candace Parker pool, there were some GREAT games. The games between EBO basketball Grey, Seattle Futures, and Oregon Elite were epic. Between the three teams the widest margin of victory was 2 points!!!! That is how close this pool was. This was outstanding basketball and had fans on the edge of their seats, as college coaches scribble down notes to and watch as these teams went to battle. In the end, the Oregon Elite Red survived the pool play, and I do mean survived, by defeating both the EBO grey and Seattle Futures by 1-point, thus giving them the title.
Three great pools in this division and it all game down to one game in each pool. These teams went to war and had some really great games for the fans to watch.
In the Chelsea Gray pool, it came down to two teams, both of which are local teams. The West Coast Premier (WCP) Gray and OC Rhythm Gold. Both of these teams did a great job all tournament of taking care of business. It simply came down to this, who would get on track the fastest. Having seen most of the local team this summer, both these teams can really go once they get their rhythm. In the deciding game, WCP gray never let OC Rhythm get their stride. It was the only time in the tournament that I saw them uncomfortable. Give credit to the WCP team for keeping them off balance. A great job by both teams and coaching staffs.
In the Chiny Ogwumike pool, two teams, the Tucson Rattlers and the Oregon Elite ran away from the competition. The two teams struggled a bit on the first day, but really hit their stride on the second and there was no turning back. The Oregon Elite program once again proving that they are one of the best programs on the West Coast as they systematically took care of business. Coach Lavender has done a great job with that program. The game between the teams was a pitched battle but in the end the Tucson Rattlers were able to come away with a hard fought victory. A team that does deserve mention here is the White Tiger team. They pushed the Rattlers to the limit and had a chance to win, but came up a bucket short.
The Cappie Pondexter pool came down to one game. It was the Northwest Stars vs. Las Vegas Storm 17 Black. This game was a barn burner. Two great teams slugging out and trading bucket after bucket. It came down to who would flinch first. In the end, the Northwest Stars 17 Gold sealed the win with a key takeaway and bucket, but what a game. Northwest stars coming away with a victory. A point to be made that the Idaho Flash played both these teams very tough and had they gotten the ball to bounce their way once or twice in either game we might be talking about them more in this summary. All three of these teams really showed up at this tournament
The division was had strong representation from both California teams and team from the Northwest.
In the Sue Bird Division, the strength of the division was represented by 2 teams form the northwest, Legacy basketball and the Powerhouse program Seattle Futures. Both of these programs were pushed by the Idaho Flash and locals Triple Threat. At the start of the tournament, these teams showed that the pool championship would run through them. In this tightly contended pool there were numerous close games. Perhaps the game of the pool was a 1-point win by the Idaho Flash over Triple threat that had the college coaches writing names and cheering along with the rest of the crowd. In the end, the pool title belonged to the Seattle Futures as they were able to hold off all contenders to capture the title.
The Angel McCoughtry pool came down to the final game of the tournament. This pool had 3 teams that battled fought tooth and nail. Open Gym with consistent play outlasted all-comers. While they captured the title, the road to the title was not easily won. While they honed their skills in the first day of the tournament, they faced 3 stiff challenges in YEA, and Coastal Elite. Their biggest challenge would come in the last game against the Las Vegas Storm. The game came down to last position and with the game on the line, great defensive pressure turned the game for in favor of Open Gym. A great game for all to see.
The Lindsay Whalen pool. This pool came down to bragging rights between two local teams. WCP and The Storm knights defeated all opponents thrown at them from the first day and it came down to the final game of the tournament to see who survive at the pool champion. The two teams both entered the game with visions of titles but in the end WCP outlasted a worthy foe and left pool champion
Tidal Wave Division
The Simone Augustus pool was a great mix of talent from all parts of the Western States. This pool really was about who was the best of the west. Arizona Premier, Northwest Stars, Way to Win, and EBO joined local clubs TVT and Salesian Force vying for the title. This very competitive pool was highlighted by close games with only 1 game with a spread of greater then 11 points. Each game coming down to the wire before one team or the either pulled away. When it was all said and done Way to Win emerged the champion. College coaches and fans alike were treated to some very good basketball.
The Skyler Diggins pool. This pool was dominated by 2 teams, Clutch Red and San Diego Rage. Each of this teams ran through their competition, until they met for the deciding game, one that was all it was made up to be. Like 2 heavyweight boxers trading bigshot after bigshot. Each waiting to see who would flinch. Clutch Red were able to outlast the San Diego Rage by 2 points 38-36. Both teams did themselves proud and college coaches clamored to write down notes and get information about players on both teams.
The Brittany Griner pool. This pool was dominated by one team who gelled at the right time. Arizona Sting were really good in this tournament. They made huge strides throughout the summer and they looked polished and systemically took teams apart. Teams were able to stay with them for the first half before their consistent execution and discipline wore down teams. They were able to dispatch some very strong teams in this division as they fell by the wayside to this great team. What was most impressive about them is that they had to overcome 2 injuries to key players. Wishing them a quick recover to 2 great players.
The Tsunami Division
Two pools 12 teams game on. The division had some real heavyweight programs in it and was not for the faint of heart. Teams like Oregon Elite, Tree of Hope, Lady Style, Team Arizona, Utah Flash, Salt Lakers Black, Holla Basketball and Northwest Stars all made the journey to the Misty May Treanor Center to put their best foot forward and see who would end up the summers best.
In the Elena Della Donne pool, the surprise team of the pool and perhaps the tournament for those who have not seen them play was Team Arizona. Having seen them play and played against them in Chicago, I was not surprised to see them hand tough with the heavyweights. They simply put took care of business. They faced tough competition from their pool but were able to face and defeat the likes of the Utah Flash and a very strong team in the Northwest Stars. They used crisp execution and a suffocating man to man, that forced opposing teams into mistakes. They had a number of ways to beat you with a well-balanced attack of both outside shooting and strong interior play. They were a pleasure to watch and College recruiters agreed and they garnered much of the attention from the college scouts. Other teams like South Medford and Northside Swarm came in and battled but were simply overmatched with the 3 heavyweights in the pool. Overall a great pool and tough entertaining games.
The Diane Taurasi Pool was comprised of teams with reputations that proceeded them. This pool was loaded with talent that made college coaches drool. The likes of Tree of Hope, Lady Style Black, Oregon Elite, Fever Basketball, Salt Lakers and Balbo Hills had players that were coveted by major D1 programs. This pool was fun to watch as the teams went at it. This pool had players flying into the bleachers to save balls and get that extra possession for their team. The teams fought the title and pride as no quarter as asked for, nor was one given. To play in this pool your team had to be tough. In the pool there was never an easy game, regardless of the score. The game that best typified the play was between Tree of Hope and, the pool champion, Lady Style black where the teams went back and forth in a physical pitched battle. In the end, Lady Style Black came out ahead but knew that they were in a tough one. That was true for all the game in this division. What a great pool for spectators to see.
In its inaugural season the Grand Finale was exactly that, Grand and it had some of the best talent that the west coast could offer. We look forward to even greater numbers team coming to the event next year as news of the quality of play and venue spreads. The event offered everything you could want under one roof. Great atmosphere, great officiating, great food, and most of all great competition. What a great way to end the summer, I can’t wait to see what is in store for next year as the event promises to be even better than this year!! See you there!