By Tom Robinson, NEPABasketball.com
OXON HILL, Md. – Two JB Hoops National Girls teams, made up exclusively of players from District 2 high schools, wrapped up their AAU basketball season with titles at the USJN 17U Girls Nationals July 20-23.
JB Hoops Bucci finished a 27-2 season by going 6-1 at the tournament and winning the program’s first bracket title at USJN Nationals, taking the Platinum Consolation bracket after finishing second in Pool G.
JB Hoops Rose won its first four games before losing consecutive overtime contests. It won Pool ZZ before being eliminated in the Crystal Championship bracket.
The JB Hoops Bucci team, generally made up of the program’s older players, finished first or second in each of its live event appearances during the spring and summer.
Less than two weeks earlier, it had won the Prague Division title, completing a 6-0 run through the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chicago the first time it had entered that event.
Six players, who are entering their senior years in high school, completed their AAU careers.
Lauren Charlton from Dallas, Leah Hodick from Riverside and the Susquehanna combination of Mackenzie Steele and Taylor Huyck have spent multiple years on JB Hoops teams.
Nya Johnson from West Scranton and Lindsey Welsh from Old Forge joined the team this season.
“They’re a great team,” Bucci said. “The bottomline is our seniors are great and we have some real good younger players.
“That’s the reality of it. Their high school coaches are going to be thrilled to get them back.”
Charlton led JB Hoops Bucci in scoring during USJN Nationals at 13.3 points per game with the help of 23 made 3-pointers. She hit a 3-pointer on the first possession of four of the seven games and hit 50 percent of her long-distance attempts over the final 5 ½ games.
Rachael Rose from Scranton Prep averaged 10.4 points per game while leading the team in assists (3.4), steals (1.9) and free throws (12-for-16) during the final tournament, held annually at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
Rose hit two of those free throws for the final points in a 45-42 win over Team Durant from Maryland in the bracket final.
Hodick hit the go-ahead basket in the final minute, off a high-low feed from Johnson.
JB Hoops Bucci showed many scoring options in the tournament.
Cecelia Collins from Scranton Prep, Johnson, Hodick and Moriah Murray from Dunmore all contributed more than five points per game.
Steele, who shared the team blocked shots lead with Hodick, and Welsh, who was just one assist and one steal behind Rose for those leads, each added nearly four points per game.
Huyck was slowed by an ankle injury that forced her out of three games, but still managed to average three assists.
Clair Marion from Abington Heights and Kayla Rose from Riverside, two of the leaders of the JB Hoops Rose team, doubled up, providing depth for JB Hoops Rose is most games.
A strong passing game led to JB Hoops Bucci having assists on 101 of 139 baskets while shooting better than 45 percent from the floor in the tournament.
Hodick and Collins each made more than 64 percent of their shots while Steele made nearly 58 percent.
Collins was 7-for-13 on 3-pointers and Johnson was 3-for-4, helping the team shoot 38.5 percent from long range.
Johnson averaged 5.7 rebounds per game, leading a balanced team effort that saw JB Hoops Bucci outrebound its opponents by 36.
Rachel McDonald from Abington Heights led JB Hoops Rose at USJN Nationals with 9.2 points per game and 14 made 3-pointers.
Wyoming Valley West’s Trinity Johnson, Lake-Lehman’s Claire Dougherty, Kayla Rose, Marion and Scranton Prep’s Maria Belardi each averaged between 4.9 and 6.5 points per game while helping the team to a rebounding advantage. Marion and Rose led in assists while Johnson’s blocked shots and Belardi’s efforts in the press provided a defensive spark.
Katherine Shepherd from Western Wayne and Anna Scoblick from Abington Heights added three points per game and each – Shepherd on a key 3-pointer and Scoblick on a last-minute steal – made plays late in close games to help pull out wins.
Deanna Wallace from Dallas missed time early in the tournament with an injury, but returned to help run the offense.