OXON HILL, Md. – The JB Hoops girls produced the win they needed to advance to bracket play for the first time ever at the USJN 17U National Championships, but a disappointing result on another court prevented the team from winning its pool.
Monday afternoon’s 48-31 win over the Connecticut Northstars allowed JB Hoops to finish 4-1 in Pool GG, tied for the best record out of six teams.
The tie, however, was with the Brooklyn Saints, the team that handed JB Hoops its only loss and therefore had the tiebreaker advantage. Minutes after JB Hoops ended its game, Brooklyn locked up a 42-34 win over the Maryland Pride, which JB Hoops needed to win the game that trimmed the teams tied at the top of the standings from three to two.
Brooklyn moves on as one of eight teams in the Bronze Division Championship Bracket. JB Hoops moves into the Bronze Division Consolation Bracket while the remainder of the teams in the pool are eliminated from the event.
“We did what we had to do,” coach John Bucci said. “ … It’s great for these kids.
“It’s an honor and something to build on for the future.”
In the pool finale, JB Hoops got the fast start it had been lacking earlier and dominated the boards throughout on the way to its first comfortable victory of the tournament.
“We finally played how we should always play,” said Lisa Tallo, who provided an early spark.
Tallo and Cassie Ksiazek connected twice each when JB Hoops was going 5-for-6 from 3-point range in the first quarter to take a 21-10 lead.
“We were driving in and kicking to our best shooters,” Tallo said, “and, we were knocking them down.”
The Northstars did not control a single offensive rebound as JB Hoops built a 38-17 advantage on the boards.
Mackenzie Steele grabbed eight rebounds. Victoria Toomey added six while Lauren Charlton and Leah Hodick had five each.
JB Hoops trailed for only 20 seconds all game and there was just one tie. JB Hoops was in front for more than 31 of the 32 minutes.
“We were fine,” coach John Bucci said. “We moved the ball. Defensively, they got a few back doors because we were hugging our girls and not helping.
“But, I thought overall, we played well. I was just glad nobody got hurt the way the game was officiated.”
Connecticut used a six-point burst to take an 8-7 lead midway through the first quarter, but JB Hoops answered with a 16-2 run.
Ksiazek erased the deficit on a 3-pointer from the right wing.
After the Northstarts tied the game, 10-10, the next nine points came on JB Hoops 3-pointers.
Tallo broke the tie and assisted a Ksiazek 3-pointer between her own two bombs.
Ksiazek hit her 3-pointer in the possession immediately before and after she blocked Connecticut shots at the other end of the floor. She also assisted Tallo’s second 3-pointer.
“I think we just came out more aggressively,” JB Hoops guard Hannah Smith said. “We were up on the ball more than we had been early in other games and we cut down on our turnovers a lot.”
JB Hoops suffered through its only offensive struggles during the second quarter, but Lexi Walsh scored to begin and end the quarter and keep the team in front 27-18 at halftime.
Charlton had five points in the third quarter and Hodick had four in the fourth as JB Hoops gradually expanded its lead to the final margin of 17.
Ksiazek led the team in scoring for the third time in four games with nine points and also blocked three shots.
Charlton, Toomey and Walsh each had seven points.
Hodick, Ksiazek, Toomey and Morgan Haefele all had two assists. Walsh and Gracie Guarino had two steals each.
JB Hoops played without Kiana Williams, who suffered an ankle injury in the morning win. Erin Worzel has been sidelined since the tournament opener.
“Moving on is something that coach said one of our teams has never done before,” said Smith, a rising junior at Wallenpaupack who started at Backcourt Hoops with the NEPA Flames in fourth and fifth grade and has been playing on JB Hoops teams at various age levels since seventh grade. “So, it was really nice to be able to do that.”
JB Hoops opens consolation bracket play Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. against Future from nearby Washington, D.C., which went 4-1 to place second in Pool NN. Future averaged 56.6 points per game in the pool and won three times by 26 or more points.
The Bronze Consolation Division semifinals are at 2:30 p.m. and the finals of the eight-team bracket are at 5 p.m.