Quality talent helps heat up cold Kentucky weather
By Bob Corwin
The 11th annual Raatz Fence/O’Shea’s Basketball Classic saw 13 contests take place on January 19 and 20 at Mercy Academy in Louisville, Kentucky. As previously, the event (watched by approximately 15 NCAA mostly D1 colleges), was sponsored by Raatz Fence Company and O’Shea’s Restaurants.
One out-of-state high school coach, participating in the event for the first time, raved about the way the event was run (organization of games, hospitality room, motel rooms). If your team gets invited and can get to Louisville in latter January, please think seriously about attending.
Team of the Tournament: Incarnate Word Academy
It may seem odd to pick a team that split two games as special in performance at such a prestigious event. However, Incarnate Word (IWA) had the best showing on the toughest two-game schedule at the event. On Friday, IWA lost (63-60) to nationally ranked Mercer County when an offensive foul call (probably a bad call based on video evidence) waved off the likely winning basket in the closing seconds (foul shots provided the extra two points to the final score) of the game. On Saturday, IWA defeated (51-46) Sacred Heart Academy of Louisville in a battle of two teams that had previously been ranked in one or more national polls during the season.
Looking at some of the individual talent in alphabetical order with height, position and school within graduation year. Location of school is in parenthesis. All players discussed below should be considered as prospects of some level of NCAA Division 1.
Brinae Alexander, 5-9, forward, Riverdale High School (Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
A Vanderbilt signee, Alexander showed her ability to finish near the rim when closely guarded, posting 20 points (8/14 from the field) in her team’s 74-63 victory over Male High School.
Ciaja Harbison, 5-6, point guard, Male High School (Louisville, Kentucky)
A St. Louis signee, Harbison repeatedly attacked the basket with style (7/13 from the field) in posting 17 points, also chipping in five assists, in her team’s loss to Riverdale.
Nakayla Jackson, 5-10, forward, Incarnate Word Academy (St. Louis, Missouri)
An unsigned senior, Jackson posted 25 points total in her team’s two games in Louisville. She showed an ability to score in the key but also stepped out to hit multiple threes.
Aaliyah Patty, 6-3, power forward, Montini Catholic High School (Lombard, Illinois)
An Ohio State signee, at times Patty plays too much on the perimeter acting like a small forward without impact. When she decided to spend more time in the key, she lifted her team to a 50-49 win over DuPont Manuel of Louisville by posting 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Seygan Robins, 5-9, point guard, Mercer County High School (Harrodsburg, Kentucky)
A Louisville signee, Robins (discussed in the Naples Holiday Shootout article) played the event with a bad case of the flu. Still she posted 42 points (barely resting) as her team won both its games at the event.
Emma Souder, 6-2, forward, Mercer County High School (Harrodsburg, Kentucky)
A Northern Kentucky signee, Souder (head coach’s niece), played her role taking shots given, thus posting 33 point in her team’s two wins at the event. She has a stretch-four mentality stepping out for threes and scoring in the paint.
Bria Beal, 6-1, forward, Rock Island High School (Rock Island, Illinois)
Receiving Power 5 offers, Beal can dominate a game (here 22 points and 9 rebounds in a 52-40 win over Butler of Louisville) by attacking the rim from the perimeter or high post using her strong build. She needs to become more consistent when shooting from the perimeter.
Nila Blackford, 6-1, power forward, DuPont Manuel High School (Louisville, Kentucky)
Blackford’s offensive skills (shooting range) need to get better but her motor tends to run on high speed. She does not back down to physical play. Her team may have lost 50-49 to Montini Catholic but her 14 points and 10 rebounds (against taller opposition) was certainly worth noting.
Cameron Browning, 6-1, center, Male High School (Louisville, Kentucky)
Although her team came up short (74-63) to Riverdale High School of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Browning did what she could to tip the outcome in favor of her team. A low post player, Browning posted 12 points and 12 rebounds fighting tooth and nail in the lower key.
Zia Cooke, 5-9, point guard, Rogers High School (Toledo, Ohio)
Considered one of the top prospects in the 2019 class, Cooke can almost create a shot as she pleases. Sometimes, players like Zia can be accused of shooting too much. On the converse, her bad shot might be better than a teammate’s good one. She posted 46 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists as her team split its two games at the event.
Jasmine Elder, 5-7, small forward, Butler High School (Louisville, Kentucky)
While she needs to improve her range as to consistency given her height, no one will deny Elder is powerful for her size. In her team’s 52-40 loss to Rock Island High School, she posted 16 points (did hit two threes) and 11 rebounds.
Dena Jarrells, 5-5, point guard, St. Joseph Central Catholic High School (Huntington, West Virginia)
Orally committed to UT Chattanooga, Jarrells is a heady field general who can score (posted 36 points and 8 assists) as her team won its two games (78-58 versus Bullitt East; 68-57 versus Franklin County of Kentucky).
Esmery Martinez, 6-1, forward, Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
From the Dominican Republic, Martinez is learning fast as to the game in the USA. Moving well without the ball, she posted a total of 23 point (mostly in the paint) and 19 rebounds as her team posted two wins of 30 or more points.
Paige Shy, 5-10, small forward, St. Joseph Central Catholic High School (Huntington, West Virginia)
Orally committed to Marshall, it appears Shy has grown a bit in the last six months. She prefers to shoot off the catch in the wing to baseline area going for 48 points on 18/37 including 10 threes made.