OXON HILL, Md. – JB Hoops got off to a flying start at the USJN 17U National Championships at the Gaylord Convention Center at National Harbor.
Scoring 13 of the game’s first 14 points, JB Hoops took charge of the game, then held off a comeback by Maryland Pride to win, 53-44, in its tournament opener.
JB Hoops opened a 24-7 lead midway through the second quarter and – although there were some tense moments dealing with Maryland’s physical, pressure defense – never let the Pride closer than six after the game’s first three minutes.
“We have to do a better job handling the pressure and the intensity that other teams place on us with the hand-checking and such,” coach John Bucci said.
Victoria Toomey had team-highs of 13 points and three blocked shots while also contributing to a JB Hoops domination on the boards with six rebounds.
“I was happy,” Bucci said. “Vic was very good and I thought Kiana (Williams) did a great job.”
JB Hoops used team efforts to build a 45-24 rebounding advantage for the game and to shoot 47.8 percent in the first half.
Mackenzie Steele had seven rebounds, Toomey and Lisa Tallo had six each and Williams and Leah Hodick each had five.
The team had assists on 14 of its 17 baskets, including an assist by Cassie Ksiazek in each of the first three quarters.
“When we were allowed to move in freedom without all the clutching and grabbing, our offense was very effective and very efficient,” Bucci said. “Even in some times when we went to Vic at the high post and kind of used her as a pressure-release, that worked well.”
Lexi Walsh hit a runner in the lane, Toomey followed with two baskets, then Hannah Smith and Lauren Charlton each drained 3-pointers in the first quarter. Smith made one of two free throws to complete a 13-point streak to a 13-1 lead as JB Hoops held Maryland Pride without a field goal for the first 7:20.
“Playing so much with all these girls, we kind of know how each other move,” Toomey said. “When we have a pass, most of the times, we see each other.
“Our offense has many different options.”
The best option in the team’s only Saturday game – before playing two pool games each on Sunday and Monday – was often Toomey.
The only shots Toomey missed were the ones she didn’t take.
Toomey finished 6-for-6 from the floor and passed up a couple other opportunities while looking for an extra pass.
“I definitely sometimes think I’m taking too many (shots),” Toomey said. “I know my teammates are confident in me when I’m shooting so that if I do take one, they’ll be OK with it, but like to look for my teammates with open passes.
“If I’m not open, I’m always going to look for the open player.”
When Maryland started the fourth quarter on a 9-1 run to get within, 43-37, Toomey scored the next three baskets to double the lead.
Smith hit both ends of a one-and-one with 45.7 seconds left for a 53-43 lead, pushing aside the final Pride surge.
The teams only struggles on either end came during the times when it was unable to get the offense started.
After committing just three first-quarter turnovers, JB Hoops finished with 26.
Six of Maryland’s nine second-half baskets and its last basket of the first half came directly off steals.
Smith made two of three 3-point attempts and five of six foul shots while adding 11 points. Walsh was also 2-for-3 on 3-pointers while adding nine.
“Our guards may not have handled the ball well, but I thought they made timely shots,” Bucci said. “Hannah Smith and Lexi Walsh made some real timely 3-point shots.
Tallo provided a spark in the second quarter with four points, two assists and two steals to keep JB Hoops in front, 29-17, at halftime.