ESPN Rise Girls Basketball Showcase:
The Final Showdown
Yesterday’s ESPNRise Girls Showcase finale turned into a rematch from last year’s AAU 13u National Championships, West Virginia Thunder vs. Georgia Pistols.
Last year, West Virginia came out the victor in the grueling battle when Brittani Rizzi sank a three-pointer at the buzzer. But this go around, the Thunder was without Rizzi and their long-time coach Larry Lambert.
Lambert was diagnosed with brain cancer a month prior. For the Thunder, this wasn’t about a rematch, this was about giving back to their coach who has given them so much.
“Whenever we win a game, him seeing that text message that we won, they [Lambert’s family] say it just makes his day. He sits around waiting for those messages,” said Griffin Dempsey, who has been playing for Lambert since she was eight. “Knowing that we can contribute to making him happier is a really big deal to us because he has always helped us. It’s a good thing that we can finally give back to him.”
The finale was nothing less than expected. The score changed possession several times throughout the first two periods, but it was West Virginia who went into the half with a 32-28 lead.
“I just kept using Larry as motivation,” said Scott Johnson, who has taken over coaching duties for Lambert.
But in the end, it wouldn’t be enough.
With a little more than two minutes to play, Georgia Pistols’ Alanna Mitchel drained a game-changing three point shot to break the tie at 53, and Georgia would hold on to take it 62-57.
“We finally beat them,” said Mitchell, referencing the heart-wrenching loss from last year.
“I wanted this so much,” said Pistols’ Asia Durr. “It was just great to come out in the second half and rally back.”
With seconds to play in the game, West Virginia’s leading scorer Mychal Johnson was overcome with emotion on the court.
“I couldn’t help but think of Larry,” said Johnson. “We wanted this so bad for him, especially since this is the one game he could watch online, but I know he’s still so proud of us. We fought so hard out there.”
Durr finished with a game high 25 points and four steals. Mitchell added 11 and four rebounds. For West Virginia, Johnson finished with 20 points and seven assists, and Jenna Burdette put up 17 and 5 rebounds before being carried off the court with a right ankle injury.
Click Here to view our photo gallery of the Championship game.
Other tournament action:
In the third-place game, MBA Select defeated Tallahassee’s Essence 37-34 behind Jaclyn Heath’s 14 points. Click Here to view the photo gallery from the game.
All Iowa Attack nailed nine three-pointers to take fifth with a 54-27 victory over Dayton Lady Hoopsters.
WFBC Mustangs took seventh place with a 55-50 finish against Minnesota Stars.
For all the tournament results click here.
Lake Buena Vista- Tomorrow begins a HUGE opportunity for AAU and girls basketball as the ESPN Rise Girls Showcase kicks off at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The top eight teams from last year’s AAU Girls 13u National Championships were selected to compete in this prestigious event. The teams include: West Virginia Thunder, All Iowa Attack, Essence, Minnesota Stars, GA Pistols Gold, Dayton Lady Hoopsters, MBA Select, and WFBC Mustangs.
West Virginia is remembered for their buzzer-beater shot to take the title.
The USA U19 Women’s National basketball team will be in attendance for the weekend as well. The 15-woman roster will hold a training camp for four days at the Wide World of Sports Complex before playing Brazil on Sunday, June 5. The roster will then be trimmed to the final 12 women.
In between training, the team will hold a meet and greet session for all the participants on Saturday, June 4 at 5:15 p.m. EST where they’ll sign autographs for the girls and answer any questions they may have.
Pool play for the showcase will begin Friday, June 3. Semifinals begin at 4 p.m. EST on Saturday and culminate with the championship game on Sunday morning at 9 a.m. EST. The championship game will be broadcasted LIVE on ESPN3.com so be sure to tune in!
Click Here for the schedule and to stay up to date on the latest tournament results. Myah Mellman from All Iowa Attack will be blogging all weekend long about the tournament and her experiences so be sure to catch what she has to say too. Click Here for her blog.
Follow AAU Girls Basketball on Twitter @AAU_ _Basketball. They’ll be tweeting all the latest scores and other updates from the complex. Also, follow them on Facebook: The Real AAU.
For more information on AAU Girls Basketball, visit www.aaugirlsbasketball.org.