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Les Willsey

Staff Writer,

Nike TOC Day 1: St. Mary's, Pinnacle, Hamilton prevail

Dec 20, 2012

St. Mary's girls basketball team's first half was pretty close to great. The second half mediocre. But that first half was good enough Thursday night to supply the Lady Knights the impetus to post a 63-52 victory over Dr. Phillips High (Orlando, FL) at the Nike Tournament of Champions at Chandler's Hamilton High School.

St. Mary's advances to the Division E -- this year's elite division -- semifinals Friday (Dec. 21) at 5:30 p.m. at Hamilton High. St. Mary's faces Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA), a winner over Ossining, NY earlier Thursday. St. Mary's is the defending mythical national champion. Mater Dei won the mythical national title the two years prior.

Getting 13 points each in the first half from Chloe Johnson and Courtney Ekmark, St. Mary's (9-0) built a 38-22 lead. Defensive pressure applied often in that half by Danielle and Dominique Williams afforded St. Mary's easy buckets. Those came in handy in putting Dr. Phiilips down double digits at intermission. Dr. Phillips (10-2) pecked away in the second half and by late in the third period had pulled to within 40-35. The first basket of the game by St. Mary's senior forward Chantel Osahor -- a 3-pointer from the top of the key -- helped steer the lead back to double figures.

A layup by Dr. Phillips' Stephanie Ratcliff -- the last of six such shot she tallied in the second half -- brough the Panthers to within 52-46 with 5:22 to play. Osahor scored on two pretty moves in the post and Ekmark drove for a bucket and added a technicla- foul free throw to make it 59-46 and finally put away the visitors.

"We kind of hung on there at the end," St. Mary's coach Curtis Ekmark said. "Our kids are still playing their way into shape. Our fitness level isn't quite there yet. We lost our wind a little bit."

But an advantage Curtis Ekmark has with his two-time defending state champs, is their experience. All six players that played Thursday played extensively last year or for the past two or three years.

"We toughed it out when we had to," Ekmark said. "They've been in big games before and know how to close."

Courtney Ekmark finished with 24 points, Johnson added 13. Osahor totaled nine -- all in the final 10 minutes of the game.  Guard Jade Cheek led Dr. Phillips with 20 points and Ratcliff had 14.

Also advancing to the Division E semifinals Thursday are Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, CA) and Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, MD). Bishop O'Dowd defeated Rock Bridge (Columbia, MO, 44-37, and Riverdale Baptist topped Centennial High (Las Vegas, NV), 60-47. Bishop O'Dowd and Riverdale Baptist play Friday (Dec. 21) at 4:15 p.m. at Hamilton High.

In other Nike TOC games Thursday involving Arizona schools, unbeaten Pinnacle (17-0) rallied in the second half from a small deficit to defeat Salesian, 70-57. Pinnacle's Sydney Wiese scored a game-high 31 points. Twenty-seven of those points came in the second half. Kenna McDavis, Britta Nordstrom, Jasmine Hotchkins and Corrina Terrano chipped in with eight points each. Pinnacle faces Windward(Los Angeles, CA)  in a Division G semifinal Friday (Dec. 21) at 4:15 p.m. at Basha High.

Also coming up a winner Thursday was Hamilton (12-1). The Huskies played stifling defense throughout and got a strong offensive effort from Aliyah Dickson in knocking off Piedmont, CA, 48-42. Dickson scored 19 points, hitting from inside and outside. She was 6-of-10 from the field, including a pair of 3s. Kyndall Adams added 11 points. Hamilton meets Reed High, (Sparks,NV) Friday (Dec. 21) in the Division C semifinals at 1:45 p.m. at Arizona College Preparatory.Tolleson (8-7) beat Huntington Beach, (CA), 47-43 in Division H and Liberty (8-2) crushed Lou Dantzler, 80-26, in the John Anderson Division. Mesquite (8-7) and Marcos de Niza (9-5) were victorious in Division B. Mesquite bested Hawthorne, CA, 56-42 and Marcos de Niza topped Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA), 58-41.

 It wasn't a good day for some of Arizona's other top schools. Dobson fell to 8-2, losing to Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, CA), 51-23, in Division L play. Mountain Pointe (12-2) dropped a 54-40 decision to Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista, CA) in Division M. Chandler and Desert Vista came up short in the Mike Desper Division. Chandler (5-5) scored just seven points in the second half, giving up a lead and losing to Etiwanda, CA, 51-30. Desert Vista (5-4) was beaten by Oak Christian  (Westlake Village, CA), 43-32. 

For updates on all the eight-team brackets (12), go to, click on 2012 NIke Tournament of Champions (Basketball). Then on the TOC basketball page, click on schedule and results on the right side of the page.