By Tom Robinson
OXON HILL, Md. – JB Hoops Rose needed a big comeback to get through two of three days of pool play as the last unbeaten in Pool ZZ of the USJN 17U Girls Nationals at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
JB Hoops preserved its perfect record the hard way, giving up the game’s first 10 points and falling behind by 12 early before using its inside game to come away with a 40-34 victory over the New Jersey Belles 16 Truhan.
The comeback in the game between the poll’s two teams that had started 2-0 put JB Hoops alone in first place.
JB Hoops had trouble handling the ball against New Jersey pressure early, but after the team settled down to close within two points at halftime, coach Jerry Rose went with a bigger lineup with less traditional ballhandlers.
JB Hoops outscored New Jersey, 13-6, in the paint in the second half.
Trinity Johnson led the way, hitting her last four shots, starting with the one that put JB Hoops ahead to stay, 27-25, with nine minutes left.
“We were down by quite a bit and I think eventually it kicked in on us that we had a good chance of losing, so we decided to fight back,” said Johnson, a 6-foot rising sophomore from Wyoming Valley West, finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. “We definitely came back and competed and played a lot better on defense.
“And, we started to come down and work the ball around and we started getting more open shots.”
JB Hoops took over the game by controlling the inside, building rebounding advantages of 20-10 for the second half and 37-26 for the game.
Kayla Rose had a team-high eight rebounds and Claire Dougherty added seven.
Rachel McDonald made three 3-pointers to finish with nine points. She hit one from the left corner with 50 seconds left for the game’s final points.
Katherine Shepherd hit the team’s other two 3-pointers. She made one from the top of the key with 2:04 left for the game’s biggest lead, 37-30.
“She can make those shots,” coach Jerry Rose said. “The second half was the best half she’s played in the last two tournaments.
“She’s a good player. She just doesn’t have that confidence yet. I feel like sometimes she doesn’t she belongs here, but she does.”
Clair Marion, Rose and Maria Belardi all had three assists. Rose and Anna Scoblick had two steals each.
JB Hoops committed four turnovers in the first 4:15 and the Belles converted two of them into easy baskets for an 8-0 lead that eventually reached 14-2 just before the midway point in the half.
“Sometimes our guards get a little too pressured and they can’t see the whole court,” coach Rose said. “That’s something we continue to work on in practice.
“You have to be able to see the whole court.”
Once JB Hoops was able to cut down the turnovers, it went with a lineup that created matchup problems for New Jersey.
JB Hoops used its bigger lineup to grab 13 of the first 16 rebounds to start the second half and move into the lead on consecutive putbacks by Johnson.
“Trinity just did an outstanding job,” coach Rose said. “With her defense and the way she’s rebounding out there, I could barely take her out.
“It was because of her that we won the game.”
“Being 3-0 so far means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “To be able to come down to such a big tournament and be able to win is very exciting.”
A total of 348 teams are participating in 58 pools of six teams each.
“I’m very happy with the way we’re playing,” Johnson said. “Even though we were down, we were able to fight back.”
MORE TO COME: Return to the JB Hoops Blog for more details from this game and more coverage of the entire tournament for JB Hoops teams.