By Patrick Z. McGavin
Janee Thompson rode out a perfect string.
Thompson, who led Young to an undefeated Class 4A state title run, had seven points, two steals, two assists and a block as the East team built a 16-point lead and withstood a furious West rally for the 79-78 victory in the McDonalds All-American Game Wednesday night at the United Center.
Bashaara Graves free throw off an offensive rebound with three-tenths of a second remaining proved the game-winner. Katie Colliers two free throws with 16 seconds forged the games third and final tie at 78.
Alexis Prince scored 15 points to lead the East. Bria Holmes contributed 13 points and Brittney Sykes added 12.
Bolingbrook star Morgan Tuck ignited the Wests rally that nearly overcame the double-deficit disadvantage. Tuck scored 12 of her 18 points in the second half.
Her teammate, Canadian Nirra Fields, scored 20 points. Niles West star Jewell Loyd struggled from the field, missing eight of her nine shots. She compensated by grabbing a team-best nine rebounds for the West. A lot of my shots were in and out, Loyd said, but I was able to contribute in other ways, with my defense and my rebounding.
Thompson scored on a double-pump up-and-under in the opening minutes as the East scored the games first 11 points. We just had great chemistry the whole time, in our practices and the time leading up to the game and it just spilled over, Thompson said. You saw that the way we shared the ball. It was almost effortless out there.
Loyds only basket, a three-pointer from the top of the key, ended the Wests four-minute scoring drought to begin the game. You could see from that time on, the nerves we had just kind of rolled off, tLoyd said.
Zion-Benton and West coach Tanya Johnson thought Loyds shot enabled her group to get into a better offensive groove. I think the kids just settled down, Johnson said. I think early on, we took early shots, and got caught up in he magnitude of the game of the game and playing on the United Center floor.
Johnsons Zion-Benton team lost to Tucks Bolingbrook team in last years Class 4A state final. She was happy to be on Tucks side this time. Shes a coachs dream, Johnson said of Tuck. She was a monster on the boards and she just plays so hard.
The Connecticut-bound Tuck, the Sun-Times Player of the Year, was matched against another Connecticut recruit, 6-3 national player of the year Breanna Stewart, who scored nine points. Tuck was 5-for-7 from the floor in the second half.