Santa Ana, Calif. – It was a match up that had been anticipated, and the top two teams on the West Coast did not disappoint the hundreds of fans and coaches in attendance at Sunday’s MTWTOCLA championship game.
Cal Sparks Gold squeaked out the win over Team Concept, 58-57. Class of 2013 guard Courtney Jaco lead the way for Gold with 26 points, which included seven three-pointers. Jordin Canada added 15 points. Concept was lead by Kailee Johnson, who put up 24 points.
Each team was able to shut down their opponent’s star player, as Gold held Concept’s #1-ranked Mercedes Russell to 10 points, and Concept limited #6 Erica McCall’s contribution to four.
The game got off to a quick start, and the pace only continued to accelerate as both teams traded basket for basket. The energy was so intense, according to Gold Director and Coach Elbert Kinnebrew, that fans gave both teams a loud ovation as they broke for halftime as a credit to their effort.
“I’ve never seen that happen at a club ball game before,” he said.
In the game’s waning seconds, Gold had managed a 58-55 lead, when Concept’s Jordan Reynolds shot a three and was fouled by Jaco with .4 seconds on the clock. She made the first shot, missed the second and swished the third, so Gold just inbounded the ball for the win.
Kinnebrew, who has fielded increasingly talented Los Angeles-area teams for over a decade, said it was the best game he’d ever coached, and called Portland-based Concept the best team Gold has played in seven years.
“They are every bit as advertised,” Kinnebrew said. “They are a complete team, and they’re the first team we’ve played (this year) who were bigger than us.”
Concept includes Springfield resident Russell, several Portland players and two from Idaho. They began making a name for themselves on the club ball circuit last summer, which they solidified at the end of the season. Their next major tournament appearance will be End of the Trail in early July.
Kinnebrew gives credit to Gold guard Siera Thompson, who found out less than a minute before tipoff that she would need to start for an injured teammate.
Significant numbers of fans and NCAA coaches came to the tournament. Some coaches could be seen, during the championship game, sending messages to colleagues updating them on the action.
“It shows that the West Coast does have major, successful tournaments,” Kinnebrew said.