Jordan Classic Girls: Two treys in final 30 seconds lift East past West

Jordan Classic Girls: Two treys in final 30 seconds lift East past West

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Jordan Classic Girls: Two treys in final 30 seconds lift East past West

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — In a game dominated by two stars, it was a third who stole the game at the final buzzer.

Stephanie Watts, a North Carolina signee from Weddington High School in North Carolina, connected on two three-pointers within the final 30 seconds to lead the East team to a 76-75 victory against its West counterparts in the Jordan Brand Girls All-American Game at Barclays Center.

“I wasn’t hitting much all game and I thought I had to help my team out,” Watts said. “Someone left me open at the end. Shooting is what I do (so there was no hesitation), but for sure I was ready to shoot. Like my coach (Shabazz High School’s Vanessa Watson) told me, ‘You might be a little off right now, but you’re going to hit the big shot we need.’ That’s what she said earlier in the game. We were laughing about that later.”

In fact, it was two big shots, and in tandem they sent a West squad to a second consecutive All-American Game loss, again by a bucket or less. The East team won the McDonald’s All American Game by a score of 69-67.

RELATED: Taja Cole’s stellar game, but one errant pass

That the East was even in position to win the game was due largely to the heroics of UConn-bound Napheesa Collier. The American Family Insurance ALL-USA first team guard from Incarnate Word in St. Louis led the East squad with 22 points and 13 rebounds, earning East MVP as a result. Collier stood out inside against the West’s post players, particularly with ALL-USA Girls Basketball Player of the Tear Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei; Santa Ana, Calif.) sitting out the game with a minor injury.

“It felt amazing, with the rush of Stephanie hitting the three at the end,” Collier said. “I was just trying to do whatever I could to help my team win. I think (the coaches) helped keep us fresh in the second half because we were going up and down a lot.”

Despite the lack of Samuelson, the West squad looked as if it might run away with the game early, leading by as many as 15 points after the midway point of the first half. Collier scored seven straight points to pull the East within five, and from there they were able to remain within striking distance until halftime.

Napheesa Collier (24) goes up for a shot while being defended by Beatrice Mompremier (32) in the Jordan Brand Classic (Photo: Andy Marlin, USA TODAY Sports)

Napheesa Collier (24) goes up for a shot while being defended by Beatrice Mompremier (32) in the Jordan Brand Classic (Photo: Andy Marlin, USA TODAY Sports)

The second half was a different story, with the East rushing out to an early lead on the back of Collier and her teammate in the post, Kristine Anigwe (Desert Vista, Phoenix). As the half wore on, the West regained its footing, or at least team-MVP Taja Cole did. The Louisville-bound guard from Bird in Richmond, Va., finished with a game-high 26 points, and at various points she and Collier slipped into a game of wo-mano-a-wo-mano, trading buckets and leads. Cole scored every way imaginable, with slashing cuts through the lane, mid-range jumpers and four deep threes, setting the West on a trajectory for revenge.

“It was fun, especially because we’re at two different heights” Cole said of her duel with Collier. “I think our post players did a good job containing her, but she still had a heck of a game. For me, I was just trying to do anything to get the win. I just feel like we shouldn’t have rushed as much. We should have taken our time instead of pushing the ball, but it’s an all-star game. They played good, we played good.”

It looked like it would be good for a win, too, until the final 29 seconds, when Watts came alive and changed the final result of the first-ever Jordan Brand girls game forever, with Collier and her teammates more apt to think back on their role as event pioneers.

“I’ll be friends with these girls for the rest of my life,” Collier said.

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