Offensive production brought the NEPA Elite 14U Clark girls team to the brink of a national title.
A series of defensive stops locked up the 14U Diamond Division Platinum bracket title at the Nike Tournament of Champions for NEPA Elite Monday with a 47-46 victory over Comets Githers 17U, an Under Armour-backed program from Drexel Hill in the Philadelphia suburbs.
“We got through it,” coach Kevin Clark said after his team completed a 7-0 run through the highest-level field for the age group in the event at the McCormick Place North. “We had some really good defensive stops down the stretch. We couldn’t convert from the foul line like we normally do.
“But, the way we executed our defensive plan down the stretch and after timeouts allowed us to hold on to the game.”
Zya Small finished 10-for-14 from the line while leading the way in the victory with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocked shots.
NEPA Elite found itself in a game with a single-digit margin and was held to fewer than 60 points for the first time in the event where it took on highly regarded opponents from seven different states.
“The Comets were extremely well-coached and ran a lot of good stuff offensively,” Clark said. “Overall, I think their size and athleticism, in particular, in combination with their skill, definitely made them the best team we saw at the tournament.”
The Comets also came in with a 6-0 record in Chicago and had given up fewer than 40 points per game in the process.
“I thought our offensive approach, and how selfless the girls are – they don’t care who gets the points – when you mix that together, it’s really tough to beat,” Clark said. “I was really proud of the way they came out.
“We had a job to do and we executed.”
Chrissy Jacklinski and Cora Castellani each added nine points. Jacklinski made all four of her free throws while Castellani was 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Castellani grabbed four defensive rebounds and Jacklinski made two steals.
Ella Clementoni chipped in six points, four defensive rebounds and three assists.
Kam Gallis, the other starter, and Jaelyn Alers each added three points.
Kayli McHugh was the other member of the championship team.
Ava Fenton was also with the team. She has been out since early in the season because of an injury.
Small and Jacklinski are from Scranton. Clementoni and McHugh are from North Pocono. Alers and Fenton are from Scranton Prep. Castellani is from Valley View. Gallis, the only player on the roster who is not yet entering high school in the fall, attends Notre Dame of Bethlehem.
NEPA Elite is based out of Riverfront Sports in Scranton.