The road to the top of the AAU girls basketball mountain goes through Spokane, literally and figuratively.
The final games for the AAU National 18U and 16U Girls Basketball Championships are set, and one team in each bracket has one win over a Spokane team.
In the 18U finale, Team Texas, which beat the Spokane Stars 76-61 Tuesday, faces Pacific California Gold. The Gold, from Oakland, beat Indiana Mohr Magic 91-68 late Friday.
The 16U wrapup features Shelbyville (Tenn.) Sports Shop, which beat the Spokane Stars 86-79 in pool play Monday, against the Maryland Chesapeake Hurricanes. Maryland lost to Shelbyville 88-75 early in the day, but came back to beat the Tennessee Stars for the second time in the tournament, 75-69.
Team Texas and Shelbyville are the unbeaten teams in the double-elimination tournaments. If they lose today, a second game will be necessary.
The first 16U game is at 10 a.m., the 18U game at noon. A second 16 game would be at 2 and a second 18 game at 4. All games are at Eastern Washington University.
The top eight teams in each division receive medals, which are awarded after their age-group championship. The Spokane Stars 18U team finished seventh.
Play it again, Ron
Despite all the headaches, Ron Adams was all smiles Friday afternoon. The tournament was winding down and he was thinking ahead.
“It’s been more work than I ever dreamed of,” he said. “I’m very competitive and I’ll keep working at it until I get it right.”
That means he plans to make a bid for another national tournament. His heart is with the 18U and 16U, tournaments at which he’s been involved for 15 years. He’s also going to bid for the 15U and 14U tournaments.
Spokane hosted 114 teams. The 15U and 14U tournaments have drawn more than 160 teams.
“I’ll take what I can get,” Adams said.
For the last week, fans have seen good basketball games played by talented athletes.
“(But) it’s been a nightmare for me behind the scenes,” Adams said. “The tournament, as far as players, coaches and fans, has been good. I bet I’ve had more than 100 players come up to me and say they’ve had a good time. And I’ve got lots of compliments about how friendly the Spokane people are. That plays a big role in getting the tournament back.”
“I feel .. compared to last year, there’s not as much competition, at least in pool play,” Mississippi State assistant Jocelyn McGilberry said. “Being in Spokane, there’s a lot of kids that could have been here that didn’t come. As coaches, we have to come.” Connecticut assistant Chris Dailey said.
“It’s probably comparable to years past. The games were better in pool play. It’s still a perimeter-dominated game. Everybody is always looking for size.
“You can’t teach height.”
McGilberry said, “Personally, I think nationals should be in the central part of the country, where all the teams have an equal chance to come.”
McGilberry was impressed with the weather, but didn’t know much about Spokane.
“It’s a lot nicer than the last time I was (in Washington),” she said. “As for the city itself, I haven’t seen much of it.”
McGilberry was in Tacoma twice, when the women’s Final Four was there and she played for Auburn.
Both times the Tigers lost in the finals, to Tennessee and Louisiana Tech.
After a pro career in Sweden was cut short by bad knees, McGilberry joined the Mississippi State staff.
Dailey wasn’t too sure what she thought about Spokane.
“On the flight out, I thought it was a bad idea,” she said. “But this is a gorgeous area, the people are very nice and the tournament is well run. It’s only fair this part of the country gets to host the tournament if they’re going to have them in other parts.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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