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2012 USJN Premier Invitational in Cincinnati Team Summaries and Standouts



Nine Canadian teams descended upon the USJN in Cincinnati July 5-8, 2012 for the Premier Invitational. Here’s a look at how those teams fared and a peak at their standouts.

 ‘A’ Game Sarah Noble
In speaking with ‘A’ Game Sarah Noble’s Head Coach, Chris Francis, he mentioned that he was pleased by the fact that his team consistently played hard despite their 1-4 result.  He instead chose to focus on what he saw as something they could use as a foundation to continue to build from, which he felt was consistent hustle and steady defending. To their credit, they did manage a win against North Carolina Elite 16 Black, which featured a nice Guard battle between ‘A’ Game’s Chelayne Bailey and fellow tournament All-Star, Kailyn-Naddiyah Cross (2014).
‘A’ Game Sarah Noble relied very heavily on a young Bailey (5’6″, PG, 2015) to run the Point for them and she did a good job. This was despite the fact that opposing teams clued in on that and gave her all that she could handle, from double teams to full court presses. Bailey was able to distribute the ball among her teammates and showed that she works well with Centre, Oceana Hamilton (6’3″, C, 2013), including running nice pic and rolls. Hamilton was consistently a threat on the offensive end and is showing steady gains with her post moves. When ready to pull from about five feet out, a nice looking stroke followed, especially when the defense was slow to get a hand up. Her stock should continue to rise if she continues to work her lateral quickness on defense.
Tournament Game Results: Loss to CSS Bison 17 (Nebraska) 70-40; Win against Carolina Elite 16 Black (North Carolina) 48-40; Loss to Dayton Lady Hoopstars 17 Premier (Ohio) 61-28; Loss to Lakers 17 White (Wisconsin) 77-26; Loss to Dream Team 17 (Illinois) 61-35

‘A’ Game T-Dot
Based on the names of the ‘A’ Game T-Dot U17 (Toronto) lineup, there were certainly higher expectations than their 0-5 record. Yes, fate had it so that they were up against some of the strongest teams in the United States in their pool, but lopsided results seen against those teams was a bit disappointing. ‘A’ Game T-Dot lost by 23 to the Spiece Gym Rats 17 Green, 31 to Michigan’s Crossover 17 Nike team and by 33 to Illinois’ Elite 17. A stronger sense of urgency and grittier performances, would have allowed them to better weather the storms they faced and strong performances to include that into their game play is well within their abilities.
Kayla Davis’s (5’7″, PG, 2013) effort throughout their games was quite the challenge for her defenders with her speed and ability to carve through defenses. She handled pressure well, taking care of the ball and swinging the ball well to teammates. Loysha Morris (5’8″, PG, 2013) also stood out, but more for what she was accomplishing on the defensive side of things. She racked up quite a few Steals throughout this tournament, pressuring ball handlers with her lateral quickness and the speed of her hands. Both earned nods as tournament All-Stars. Continuing to put in solid, consistent performances is Cheyenne Creighton (6’2″, F, 2014). From her office at the foul line, very consistent shooting and decision making is the hallmark of her game. Continued work in the post would put a nice bow on her overall game.
Tournament Game Results: Loss to Spiece Gym Rats 17 Green (Indiana) 74-51; Loss to Crossover 17 Nike (Michigan) 69-38; Loss to Playground Elite (Wisconsin) 48-46; Loss to Elite 17 (Illinois) 67-34; Loss to Cincinnati’s Finest 17 Black (Ohio) 47-45

Champlain Lady Cavaliers
Despite the Champlain Lady Cavaliers (Quebec) playing well and dropping close games to the Dayton Lady Hoopstars 17 Elite and North Carolina’s High Point Stars 16 Select, Champlain walked away from this tournament losing all their five games. Head Coach George Germanos was happy with the exposure of his team leaders, and how they played against top talent. He was disappointed with going winless, but recognized the results for what they were, which is understandable seeing that they were pooled together with the eventual tournament winners, MoKan Eclipse 17 Red.
Jennifer Mathurin (6’1″, F, 2013) is a Power Forward that maybe only listed at 6’0″, but plays a whole lot bigger. She is not afraid of contact on both sides of the floor and it even appears as though she really enjoys banging in the paint, whether boxing out for rebounds or driving and anticipating contact on her finish towards the rim. To add to that, she can be confidently relied on to relieve pressure from her Guard and either bring the ball up the floor, or the occasional running of the offense. Kathleen Bélanger-Finn (5’7″, PG, 2013) showed good ability in weathering the rough defenses. Finding the ability to better create her own shot, will better compliment her drives and dishes when setting up others.  Sirah Diarra (6’2″, F, 2015) is a name to keep on everyone’s radar.  The development of this big’s raw athletic abilities between now and her graduation has tremendous potential.
Tournament Game Results: Loss to Spiece Gym Rats FW 17 Farley (Indiana) 75-45; Loss to Dayton Lady Hoopstars 17 Elite (Ohio) 45-39; Loss to Lady Lightning 17 Platinum (Illinois) 53-40; Loss to High Point Stars 16 Select (North Carolina) 59-58; Loss to MoKan Eclipse 17 Red (Missouri) 84-41

Canada Drive U16
The Canada Drive U16 (Ontario) team managed a quite convincing win by more than 20 points over Carolina Elite 17 (North Carolina) in one of their games in this tournament. That was coupled with a couple of close 8 point losses to both The Family 17 (Indiana) and Dayton Lady Hoopstars 17 Black II (Ohio).
One of the Canada Drive players that has been showing continual improvement for quite some time is August Ricketts (6’0″, F, 2014). She is a post player whose game is effective by doing the things that you expect of a player of that position. All of the ‘razzle-dazzle’ may not be at the forefront of her game, but she establishes position well using applied strength, rebounds well, boxes out consistently and treats a five foot jumper as a ‘gimme’. By doing enough of these small things well on a regular basis, her overall game looked quite appealing. Sydney Stewart (5’9″, G, 2013) is a 2-Guard who’s strength lied in her ability to beat her man off the dribble and get to the rim. I believe that with a continued increase in her completion percentage of those drives, she could be even more of an offensive weapon.  When tasked with the duty of bringing the ball up the court, she did a good job protecting the ball while fending off opposing Guards.
Tournament Game Results: Loss to The Family 17 (Indiana) 57-49, Loss to the Illinois Rockets 17 Odnik 50-25, Win against Carolina Elite 17 54-33, Loss to Dayton Lady Hoopstars 17 Black II 52-31, Loss to Wisconsin Swing 17 58-41

Ste-Foy Dynamiques
The Ste-Foy Dynamiques (Quebec) fared the best out of all of the Canadian teams in this tournament. With three wins, the only thing that held them out of holding Third place Pool F honors, was a a five point loss to MoKan Eclipse 16 Red (Missouri), who also finished with three wins, but held the tie-break due to the head to head result. The strong play of Sarah-Jane Marois and Geneviève Derome were game changers as this team really delivered.
In my opinion, Sarah-Jane Marois (5’8″, PG, Ste-Foy, 2014)
was quite likely the most impressive Canadian in this event. Time after time, teams had big trouble trying to contain this pesky Point Guard. They tried throwing double teams at her and tried to set up half court traps, all of which she was able to evade with a cool, methodical calmness that would have made others falter. She is an extremely smart player that isn’t shy in being vocal with teammates, gladly taking on a tactitional leadership role. She is no slouch on defense either as she appears to use great foresight in both staying ahead of the many tough Guards she faced, and knowing exactly when to swoop in for steals. After first seeing her play back at the Canadian Nationals back in August 2010 with Team Québec, she has shown steady improvement, turning into a Guard that is quite ready for the next level.
Tournament Games Results: Loss to MoKan Eclipse 16 Red 53-48, Win against Michigan Shock 16 49-36, Win against Capital City Comets 17 Joseph 64-53, Loss to NYC Lady Warriors 16 DeLuca 54-43, Win against WBA Prestige 17 Black (Wisconsin) 66-57

Trois-Rivières Storm
The Trois-Rivières Storm completed their tournament with a 1-4 record and finished last in their Pool. That being said, three out of four of their losses were under 10 points. Although the Storm kind of lacked the depth required to really make a strong push to turn those losses into wins, they did show some fight in them to not roll over and concede games. It was unfortunate that they lacked the size that would have made a world of difference. That being said, kudos to their Guard play that they had to rely on heavily.
Beside the less than positive results, the Storm’s Bianca Marois (5’7″,PG, Trois-Rivières Storm, 2014) earned Tournament All-Star honors.
Tournament Game Results: Loss to Dayton Metro 16 (Ohio) 55-53, Loss to MBA Select 17 (Indiana), Loss to WBA Prestige 17 Teal 52-45, Win against Pennsylvania Pride 17 Elite 48-42, Loss to Missouri Impact 17 61-58

‘A’ Game Rachael Urosevic
After watching this A Game squad play throughout the tournament, i could certainly nickname them the ‘Canadian Go-Getters’. They had a blue-collar mindset about them that was quite reassuring to see. Hustle plays were ther norm as they seemed to take pride in with them chasing down every loose ball, being the first ones on the floor, running hard to play on both ends and pretty much giving all that they had till the final buzzer. Going all out was absolutely necessary for these girls as they played up in age PLUS had 3 State Champions in their pool. Although  they got thumped pretty hard in a couple of games against MoKan Eclipse 15 Red (Missouri) and Academy 16 (Wisconsin), their promise was not to be denied.  They gutted out an 8 point victory against Monarchs 15 LaGrande (Michigan), one of the aforementioned State Champions, and a 5 point win over Kessel Heat 17 (Illinois), a team two years older, en route to their 2-3 record.
The continual improvement in Shantelle Valentine’s game is certainly something to make note of. After getting into basketball a little later than most, she is starting to put her training to good use and marrying it with high athleticism. She is still getting used to her long slender build yet has a very good vertical, demonstrating her extreme athleticism that will be highly sought after as she continues to prepare for a likely post secondary career. I was also intrigued by Destoni Willock’s play during this tournament. She has always had a lot of strength and a relentless hustler, but now it appears as though she is starting to find increased success to go along with it. It will be interesting to see how well she can continue to do.
Tournament Games Results: Win against Michigan Monarchs 15 LaGrande 45-37, Loss to DB Hoops 17 (Ohio) 55-40, Loss to Wisconsin Academy 81-50, Win against Kessel Heat (Illinois) 45-40, Loss to MoKan Eclipse 15 Red 62-42

Canada Drive U14
The Canada Drive U14s took their share of lumps en route to a winless tournament. However, when you consider two of those losses were extremely close games, then your perspective changes. They lost to the West Central Cougars 15 Blue (Illinois) by 2 points and the Missouri Impact 15 saw them loose by 1 point in a controversial sudden death overtime game which could have easily have gone in their favor. Head Coach, Richard Nurse seemed to have instilled hustle and tactical game play into their strategy. Given his past success, the evolution of this team should be promising.
Canada Drive’s Julia Sorbara (5’6″, PG, 2015) was named a Tournament All-Star. She is a shifty guard with good instincts and very good handles. She does a good job keeping her dribble alive and showed a good ability to create space for herself.
Tournament Game Results: Loss to West Central Cougars 15 Blue (Illinois) 46-44, Loss to Indiana Hoosier Elite 15 Cotter 47-33, Loss to Montana Impact 15 30-29, Loss to Michigan Sting 48-23, Loss to WBA Prestige 15 White (Wisconsin) 73-48