I saw 12 games in 2 days and have been through all of the published data. The AAU tournament is, frankly, about individual girls jockeying for position among their peers in the race for college scholarships.
Oh, and 2ndarily, it's about teams and programs. MN Fury, for example, won its 1st ever state title. That would be Ruth Sinn's 2016s, who upset probably the biggest favorite in any class, the MN Stars Martin 9th graders, led by 8th grader Jasmyn Martin.
Then there's the fact that big, bad Tartan, the Hopkins of the club world, won 5 of 7 titles last Sunday.
But 1st it's about the girls. The big takeaway from the 2016 final, for example (well, along with Fury's accomplishment), was Jamie Ruden, 6-2 post from Rochester John Marshall, being the obvious game MVP, plus Bri Miller, Lakeville South guard, scoring Fury's last 6 points and adding the steal that deprived the Stars of the game's final shot and instead gave her, Miller, the chance to be the one to make the buzzer-beater, which she did.
First, here are summaries of the 3 older age groups--2014, 2015 and 2016; or 9th, 10th and 11th; or 16U, 15U and 14U, whichever designation you prefer. These are kids who played 16 minute halves at the AAU.
#1 seed Tartan defeated #3 MN Stars Borowicz 67-53 in the final after the Stars had surprised Fury 60-48 in the semi. Tartan had defeated Fury to win the Qualifier 2 weeks earlier 61-46, and Fury had defeated the Stars 65-57 in pool play.
#5 MN Stars Hersch surprised #4 Metro Stars Black in a quarter-final 48-41, but then lost to Tartan 53-32 in the other semi.
Technically it's all 1 tournament, the Qualifier and the State Tournament. So where the teams and programs are concerned it came out 1) Tartan, 2) Stars Borowicz, 3) Fury, 4) Stars Hersch, 5) Metro Stars Black.
As for individuals, here are some girls who stood out.
1. Tia Elbert, Tartan and, er, Tartan. Led all scorers in the final with 18, where she distinguished herself as 1 of very few girls with a consistently reliable jump shot. She also was the 2nd leading scorer in the Qualifier 2 weeks earlier with 50 points.
2. Ellie Thompson, Chaska and Fury. Scored 56 in the Qualifier, then 13 with 7 boards, clearly outplaying Stars bigs Fernstrom, Norby and Alt, in Fury's semi-final loss.
3. After that it gets murky. Nobody excels every game in the chaos of the AAU. I guess I would take the bigs as a group from the champion Tartan next. Cayla McMorris out-scored Thompson 13-10 in the Qualifier final and scored 26 points total in the Qualifier. Chase Coley added 25. In the final final, Tonoia Wade stepped up with 11 points, Coley had 8 and 6 boards and dominated early. Sam Trammell added 7 points and a pair of blocks, McMorris 7 boards to go with 4 points. They overwhelmed the Stars big but, of course, so did the Fury's.
4. Then it's the Stars' guards. Grace Coughlin was the star of the win over the Fury. She kept her team in the game when they were back on their heels during the 1st half. Then Carlie Wagner stepped up in the 2nd half. Each finished with 15 points. In the final, Wagner led with 14 points while Coughlin got abused by Kenisha Bell. And it was Sydney Lamberty who led the Stars in the Qualifier with 35 points and, after a tough game vs. the Fury, she scored 7 points with team highs in boards with 4 and assists with 2 vs. Tartan.
5. Fernstrom and Norby got abused on Sunday but scored 81 points between them in the Qualifier.
6. Down-ticket Grace Sawatzke and Amanda Christianson of MN Comets had their moments.
7. The Stars perimeter players had a tough time on Sunday as well, but Hannah Grim was the #4 scorer in the Qualifier with 47 points. At times on Sunday I thought she looked better than Coughlin and Wagner though the final stat sheet, including the team outcome, would seem to indicate differently.
8. Kenisha Bell stripped Coughlin and left her in the dirt at the 10 second line and went in for an uncontested layup on 2 consecutive possessions early in the 1st half of the final final. Along with Elbert's jump shots in the 2nd half, those were the signature moments of what was called the tournament's feature game.
9. Mia Anderson of Duluth East and Northern Lights was the #3 scorer in the Qualifier--actually, #1 in points per game with 16.
10. And in the Out-of-Nowhere category, Gabby Smith of Bloomington Jefferson and MN Stars DeWitt scored 38 points in the Qualifier, and Danielle Gitzen moved up from the Fury 2015s to the 2014s on Sunday and played as well as any Fury guard not named Hannah Grim.
#3 North Tartan 15U (Herbrechtsmeyer) defeated #1 Metro Stars 15U in a tight game 42-37. It was Tartan's 2nd "surprise" of the day, the 1st being a 42-33 win over MN Fury 2015 Blue in a semi-final game. I say "surprise" because, well, it's never really a surprise when Tartan wins. I mean, here's a team featuring a starting lineup of Kanani Asuncion, Monica Burich, Courtney Frederickson, Hannah Schaub and Alex Wittinger, 3 of them probably top 5 and all of them top 10 in their class.
By comparison, Stars boasts Madi Guebert, #1 in her class, and Hana Metoxen, top 10, in my estimation, and Sofia Chadwick, top 15; plus Lyndsay Robson and Abi Scheid, arguably top 5 or 6, but in the 2016 class. So not quite the overwhelming talent that you expect of a #1 seed. And Fury has Jill Morton and Ali Greene, both rated in some top 10s. #4 seed Stars Taylor has Sydney Boike and Lexi Lee as its top talent.
So Tartan, frankly, has the best talent. The question is how they managed to lose in the Qualifier.
1. Madi Guebert, Eastview and Stars. #1 scorer in the Qualifier, where she led her team over MN Fury Peper in the final, with 49 points, and #1 scorer in the final final with 19 points. No other player on either team scored in double figures.
2. Alex Wittinger, Delano and Tartan. Has come out of nowhere the past 18 months. She's a strong, 6-1 inside player who thrives on contact. She was the #3 scorer in the Qualifier with 44 points and led her team in the final final with 8 points. All of the Stars bigs--Denk, Metoxen, Nowak and Scheid--combined for 9 points.
3. Courtney Frederickson, Tonka and Tartan. Steady as she goes.
4. After this it gets, er, murky. I guess I would take the championship backcourt of Hannah Schaub and Kanani Asuncion. Schaub is a classic 1 who protects the ball, get's 'em into their offense and provides good on-ball defense going the other way. Heady, smart, aware, though it's all in a very small package. You'd think she could get overpowered, but it didn't happen Sunday. Overall, despite Guebert's 19 points, Tartan did a good job of taking the Stars out of their offense, and Schaub was a part of that. Asuncion is bigger and more physically solid, and solid fundamentally on both ends of the court. They scored 12 points between them and, again while Guebert scored 19, the other Stars guards--Chadwick, Bilski and Vraa--combined for just 7. Schaub also scored 34 points in the Qualifier.
5. Marina Nowak, Rogers and Metro Stars. Scored just 4 points in the final but was the #2 scorer for the #1 team in the Qualifier with 30 points.
6. Brynn Murphy, Spring Lake Park and Fury Gold (Gold is Fury's 2nd team; Blue is the #1 color). Murphy, 6-1, is new to me. She was the #2 scorer in the Qualifier.
7. Lyrik Williams, this is the Armstrong Lyrik rather than the St. Paul Central Lyric. She was the #2 scorer (tied with Wittinger) in the Qualifier with 44 points.
8. Ali Greene, Mahtomedi and Taylor Hagen, Blooming Prairie, both Fury. Greene had a great Qualifier with 40 points total, and 7 points, 6 boards and 2 steals in the final. Hagen had an even better final with 10 points, 10 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals. She scored 33 points total in the Qualifier.
9. On paper, Stars Taylor's best players are Malecha, Lee and Boike, but on the ground, this weekend, it was Jaycie Gerding, Centennial; Raven DuBois, Breck; and Hannah Johnson, Duluth East. DuBois and Gerding each scored 9 points in a quarter-final win over Suns McGowan, while Johnson had 3 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Boike, on the other hand, scored 34 points in the Qualifier.
10. Now I'm running out of folks. Hana Metoxen, Eastview and Metro Stars, didn't score in the final but scored 23 in the Qualifier while her summer teammate McKenzie Denk, Lakeville North, scored just 2 in the final but is a nice looking athlete.
As noted, Fury Sinn's 39-37 win over Stars Martin was by far the big upset of the week. Before it could knock off the #1 rated Stars, it also had to surprise the #2 rated Crossfire Robertson and Sarah Kaminski 49-38 in the semis. Stars beat Tartan 55-41 in the other semi. Stars had beaten Crossfire 61-48 in the Qualifier final. The top individuals:
1. Jamie Ruden, Rochester JM and Fury Sinn. Scored 12 points in the 1st half as Fury took control, sort of, of the game. She squares up, something many players don't seem to think of, and she hits the shot. Of course, control didn't last as Stars Martin seemed poised to snatch the win at the end, and Ruden was only able to score 2 points in the 2nd half. But forget the ebb and flow. In the end, her team won and she was the main reason why.
2, Jasmyn Martin, Bloomington Kennedy and Stars Martin. Her teammates forgot about her for 3/4 of the game. When they rediscovered her, suddenly Stars were back in the ballgame. She scored her team's last 10 points, 4 of them off the offensive glass and 4-for-4 of them FT, as her team battled back from 27-33 at a 5:13 timeout to tie at 37 with 2 minutes yet to go. She did turn it over on her last touch. She had 11 points with 3 assists, 3 steals and a block in the Qualifier final 2 weeks earlier, and was the #6 scorer in the Qualifier with 36 points.
3. Sarah Kaminski, Minnehaha and Crossfire. A player for whom defenses make special preparations, or else. Scored 41 points (#3) in the Qualifier, though Stars Martin has the talent needed to make her life miserable. She scored just 5 points as her team lost the Qualifier final 61-48, but she also had 4 assists and 9 rebounds.
4. Taylor Koenen, Shakopee and Rae Johnson, St. Michael-Albertville, both Fury Sinn. Koenen did not have a big game vs. Stars Martin, but who does. Still she was the #2 scorer in the Qualifier with 47 points, and had 4 points and 3 assists on 2-of-8 shooting vs. Stars Martin. Playing up from her true 2017 level, Johnson was probably the best guard on the floor during the final where she contributed 8 points and 3 assists. Koenen was better overall, outscoring Johnson 47-20 in the Qualifier.
5. Ashley Bates and Nia Hollie, Hopkins and Stars Martin. Bates was better with 37 points in the Qualifier to Hollie's 21, and 7 points in the final final to Hollie's 3. Bates also had 7 boards and 3 steals, Hollie 2 assists. As impressive as Hollie is, she does not find it easy to put the ball into the hole,
6. Allison Hinck, White Bear Lake and MN Heat Lund. Had a nice tournament, scoring 36 points (#6) in the Qualifier. Lund lost to Tartan 15U in the quarter-final round 39-38 and she was probably their best player.
7. Kiara Russell and Tyrah Spencer, Kennedy and Stars Martin, the 2nd string guards, and Alaina Jarnot, Maranatha and Stars Martin, who starts ahead of them. The 2nd stringers scored 11 points between them in the Qualifier final and 10 points between them in the final final. Jarnot had a nice Qualifier with a 4th-best 37 points including a team-high 13 points in that final. She failed to score in the final final, however.
8. Bri Miller, Lakeville South and Fury Sinn. Scored 6 points in the final final, It's just that they were Fury's last 6 points of the day. Miller also got the steal at 13 seconds that gave Fury and not Stars a final shot at the bucket. Miller took advantage, making a double clutch dipsy-doodle at the final buzzer.
9. Grace Allen, Minnetonka and Crossfire.
10. LaShayla Wright-Ponder, Benilde. A big strong girl.
All-16s (16 minute halves)
C- Jamie Ruden, Rochester John Marshall and Fury 2016
F- Alex Wittinger, Delano and Tartan 2015
F- Jasmyn Martin, Bloomington Kennedy and Stars 2017 (playing up at 2016)
G- Madi Guebert, Eastview and Stars 2015
G- Tia Elbert, Tartan and Tartan 2014
C- Bryanna Fernstrom, Chisago Lakes and Stars 2015
F- Ellie Thompson, Chaska and Fury 2014
F- T.T. Starks, Hopkins and Tartan 2015
G- Sydney Lamberty, Park and Stars 2014
G- Grace Coughlin, Benilde and Stars 2014
C- Bailey Norby, Forest Lake and Stars 2015
F- Chase Coley, Mpls. Washburn and Tartan 2014
F- Courtney Frederickson, Minnetonka and Tartan 2016
G- Carlie Wagner, NRHEG and Stars 2014
G- Sarah Kaminski, Minnehaha and Crossfire 2016