Four undefeated girls’ high school basketball teams will play in GEICO Nationals this weekend at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, Florida.
Lake Highland Prep (Florida) will take on Paul VI (Virginia) in the first semifinal on Friday at 10:30 a.m. ET, while Westlake (Georgia) will face Fremont (Utah) in the second semifinal at 12:30 p.m. ET, both games on ESPNU. The winners will face off in the championship game on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
The coronavirus pandemic resulted in a change in how the tournament is formatted; there are only four teams in this year’s tournament compared to eight in 2019. (The boys’ tournament will feature 10 teams.) Different states have had different policies with regards to high school sports, so not all teams had a full slate of games.
Lake Highland Prep, the No. 3 team in the espnW 25 Power Rankings, went 19-0 in the regular season, while No. 4 Paul VI went 10-0. Second-ranked Westlake was 20-0, while No. 15 Fremont was 26-0.
While each team has had a relatively significant break since last playing, this weekend’s event will not only pit four of the top high school programs against each other, but also be a showcase for some of the top prospects in the country.
“In an event like GEICO, every possession matters,” Paul VI coach Scott Allen said. “We will make the best of it.”
Here are some key players to watch for each team entering this weekend’s tournament.
Johnson was named the Naismith High School Player of the Year. The doi-it-all point guard averaged 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game this season.
Westlake had an historical season, as it won its fourth straight state championship. Johnson and fellow senior Brianna Turnage, a Virginia Tech signee who is ranked No. 61 overall in the Class of 2021, are the only two players who were on all four teams. They were also on the last Westlake team that participated in GEICO Nationals when they were freshmen.
They also boast junior Ta’Niya Latson, the 39th-ranked junior in the country. Latson, a dynamic combo guard who brings a defensive pressure to the floor, has improved her shooting and finishing skills, and she has averaged 23.2 points per game this year.
But make no mistake: Johnson is Westlake’s leader. She is a three-level scorer who can get to the rim, pull up or burn her opponent from downtown. She sets the tone defensively with her ball pressure and leadership. And as she has proven time and again, she is a winner.
Harris is an active and agile forward who owns the glass for Lake Highland Prep. She averaged 11.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season. She made her pledge to Louisville mid-season.
She is not the only top prospect on the roster. Harris and Alabama signee Kayla Blackshear, the No. 75 prospect in the Class of 2021, complement each other. Blackshear is a strong inside presence who can stretch the defense out to the high post area while she patrols the glass on both ends. The Highlanders also boast junior point guard Stefanie Ingram, a UCF commit who sets the tone.
Lake Highland Prep won the United Bank Holiday Invitational in December and the Florida 4A state championship thanks in large part to its frontcourt. Blackshear and Harris are a dynamic duo, and that makes them difficult to match up against.
Of all of the teams in the GEICO bracket, Paul VI might have had the most unusual year. Thee Panthers did not play an official WCAC schedule and essentially had to piece together a schedule. They hosted several home games and even played 40-minute games knowing they would be limited. They haven’t played since Feb. 9.
Senior guard Isabella Perkins, who is currently unsigned, leads the team in scoring with 16.8 points, and she also averages 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. But she can’t do it alone.
Enter the 6-foot-1 Volker, a knock-down shooter from the perimeter with strong fundamentals. The future Duke Blue Devil averaged 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this season. She also has strong decision-making abilities on the floor and is versatile.
However, Fremont will still have the biggest front line in the event in the 6-foot-4 Calvert and 6-foot-6 sophomore Maggie Mendelson, the 21st-ranked sophomore in the country.
Calvert is a skilled post player who is comfortable as both high-post passer and scorer down low with her notable footwork. She led the team in scoring this season with 17.3 points to go along with 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
Mendelson is a mobile post who runs the rim well and also excels in the high-low game. She led the team in rebounding (8.9 per game) to go along with her 14.3 points and 1.9 blocks. Senior point guard Halle Duft recently committed to UM Kansas City and leads the team with 5.7 assists per game.