By Tom Robinson,
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The NEPA Elite Clark 17U girls put together a near spotless first 15 minutes, then came up with a gritty performance down the stretch to leave the Atlantic City Showcase with a victory in their final game, 56-50, over New Jersey Rise 17U-Masonius May 22.
The win left the team with a 2-2 mark for the weekend at the Select Events Basketball event at the Convention Center.
Showing off what may have been the team’s best stretch of basketball this season, NEPA Elite jumped out to a 16-7 lead after 5:12 and was up by as much as 12 in the first half before settling for a 33-23 lead at the break.
“We did well together,” said Kiyomi McMiller, the nationally ranked point guard prospect from Trinity Collegiate High School in South Carolina, who joined the team following its first tournament of the season. “We’re starting to come together a lot better.
“The first tournament (after joining the team), it was a little rough, but by the second tournament it was better.”
Progress continued in Atlantic City, particularly in the last outing of the 2023 Division Pool E.
McMiller opened the game by going 3-for-4 and finding open teammates who also were 3-for-4 combined during the 16-7 start. McMiller extended that start to 5-for-6 with four 3-pointers and an 18-footer and assisted the first four baskets by teammates to make it 22-12 at the midway point in the half.
New Jersey cut into the deficit, but Emily Romanowski’s baseline drive produced a three-point play and 33-21 lead with 1:25 left in the half.
To that point NEPA Elite had committed just one turnover. The team made it to halftime without allowing the Rise an offensive rebound.
“For a team that doesn’t have anybody six foot, they do a heckuva job,” said Tara Macciocco, one of the program’s 16U coaches, who filled in for the weekend coaching the Clark team.
New Jersey eventually found its way to the offensive glass and cooled down the NEPA Elite offense while pulling within a point twice and reducing it to a one-possession game four other times.
Ella Wilson shook off a rough shooting game to hit two key 3-pointers in the final 7:45 and NEPA Elite allowed just two points over the final four minutes.
“We keep saying, ‘that next play mentality’,” Macciocco said. “Don’t worry about the last shot. The progression Ella’s making is unbelievable.”
Cadie Lewis also hit a 3-pointer with 3:10 left for a 54-48 lead. She joined Wilson in hitting a pair of 3-pointers and finishing with eight points, tied for second-most on the team.
McMller finished with 25 points and 9 rebounds, both team-high totals, plus tied for the team lead with 4 assists, 3 steals and a block. She went 10-for-18 from the floor, including 5-for-10 on 3-pointers.
Although McMiller joined Wilson and Lewis in hitting 3-pointers late in the game, she said the victory was secured elsewhere.
“We played better defense and then we pressured, too,” she said. “We did box out a lot more. We boxed out in the beginning, but we kind of stopped with that. We didn’t rebound as much in the middle, but then we came back and boxed out more and that helped a lot, too.”
While McMiller ran the offense, all five teammates used in the game hit at least two baskets and had at least one assist. Four of them grabbed at least four rebounds and two joined McMiller with three steals.
“They did a great job of sharing the ball today,” Macciocco said. “Everybody got involved on the offensive end, which is nice.
“I think they’re learning how to play together and I think from Game One to Game Four, a lot of nice progression.”
After allowing 76 points in the May 20 opener, the team gave up 50.7 points while winning two of three games and finishing tied for third in the six-team Pool E.
Lewis had six rebounds and two assists to go along with her eight points.
“Cadie Lewis started knocking down some shots,” Macciocco said. “Defensively, she doesn’t get beat off the dribble. She’s very smart defensively.”
Romanowski had six points and made three steals.
The steals were just part of her defensive contribution.
“There’s so many kids on this group that do so many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” Macciocco said. “Romanowski is unbelievable at anticipating defensively. She’s always in the right position with weak-side help.
“Makenzie Perluke plays bigger than she is.”
Like Lewis, Perluke mixed it up with bigger players while contributing five rebounds.
Daniella Ranieli had five points while matching the team-leading totals of four assists and three steals.
Wilson is from Lake-Lehman, Lewis from Dunmore, Romanowski from Western Wayne, Perluke from Wyoming Valley West and Ranieli from Pittston Area.
McMiller finished the weekend with 126 points, 30 rebounds, 15 assists and 13 steals in 4 games, including a program record 42 points in the opening loss.
A recap of how other NEPA Elite teams did on the final day in Atlantic City:
Clark 13U team
Team Providence worked the ball for most of the last minute until finding Aaralyn Scott open on the left baseline for the 10-footer that lifted the team to a 45-43 victory over the NEPA Elite Clark 13U girls in the semifinals of the Blue Championship division for winners of the 2027 Division Pools A-D.
NEPA Elite had gone 3-0 in the first two days to win Pool B.
Each team scored just once in the final three minutes of the game, which featured five ties and five lead changes.
Cora Castellani made a steal, went strong to the basket and hit one of two free throws for a 43-43 tie with 51.3 seconds left.
Team Providence then held the ball until scoring the winner with 10.8 left.
NEPA Elite could not get off a final shot.
Castellani led the team with 12 points and 6 steals.
Zya Small had a double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds. She also blocked three shots.
Ella Clementoni had five assists. She also grabbed 6 rebounds, including 5 of the team’s 17 offensive boards.
Eva Kaszuba, Chrissy Jacklinski and Kayli McHugh each chipped in five points. Kaszuba also had four assists while Jacklinski had seven rebounds.
NEPA Elite led 9-2 early, but Team Providence surged in front, 27-22, at halftime.
Jacklinski’s three-point play capped a 7-0 run to a 37-36 lead with six minutes left.
Castellani had the first four points, including a strong cut and left-handed finish on a side in-bounds play, and Small made one of two free throws after a steal for a streak of five points to a 42-41 lead.
Kaszuba and Castellani are from Valley View; Small and Jacklinski are from Scranton; Clementoni and McHugh are from North Pocono.
Macciocco 16U team
New Jersey Soldiers defeated the NEPA Elite Macciocco 16U team, 56-43, in the last game of the 2024 Division Pool G.
The game determined third place in the six-team pool after NEPA Elite lost twice early against the two teams that finished 4-0 in the pool.
Emily McDonald led NEPA Elite with 18 points.
Finley Bittenbender, who finished with eight points, and Sophia Talutto, who had a team-high four assists, each hit a pair of 3-pointers.
Elyse Montgomery had five points and five rebounds.
McDonald is from Abington Heights, Bittenbender from Scranton, Talutto from Dunmore and Montgomery from Honesdale.
Butler 16U team
SJSR Ballers held the NEPA Elite Butler 16U girls to 10 first-half points on the way to a 35-26 victory in a 2024 Division Pool K game.
Gabby Marsola had a team-high 10 points in the loss.
Brenna Hunt had five points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. She led the team in rebounds, had the only blocked shots and shared the team steals lead with Lucie Racicky.
Ella Cooper, who scored five points, and Makenzie Schirg each had two assists and two steals. Marsola also had two assists.
Marsola is from Wyoming Valley West, Hunt from Lake-Lehman, Racicky from Holy Redeemer, Cooper from Valley View and Schirg from Lackawanna Trail.
NEPA Elite finished 1-3 and fifth in the six-team pool.
Rini 15 U
Central PA Elite-Nixon defeated NEPA Elite 15U Rini in an early-morning 2025 Division Pool F game.
NEPA Elite finished 1-3 in the pool.