|MIDNIGHT WOMEN’S ALL-STARS||MADNESS WOMEN’S ALL-STARS|
|Guard||Rachel||James||Guard||Nicolette||Fong Lyew Quee|
|Wing||Ishara||Bilson – Graham||Wing||Shanice||Turner|
|Coach: Karen Burton||Coach: Steve Vear|
20 talented female ballers will have the spotlight firmly focused on their hoop skills on Friday night, as British basketball’s biggest summer competition welcomes the women’s division finalists back into the big time.
Women from all across the country battled through North and South regional qualification rounds and then the infamous ‘all-nighter’ to earn coveted spots in the highly anticipated MM Women’s Final at the Copper Box Arena. With an exciting blend of hungry young talent and skilled veteran stars from the WBBL, the action and competition promises to be of the highest order.
For the first time in Midnight Madness history, the Women will be competing for a place on their own travel team who travel to Madeira Island in Portugal to compete in the CAB Madeira Invitational. Representing GB overseas, against top professional teams from Spain and Portugal, the opportunity for the women has never been brighter, nor the stakes higher.
Leading the attack in the backcourt for the Midnight Women’s All-Stars are guards Rachel James, Josephine Salmon, Naomi McKenzie and Amber Charles. James is an athletic blur who handles the ball well at pace has proven she is too hard to guard, thus far in the tournament. She often has a quickness advantage over her competition and uses it to her advantage on the defensive end – creating havoc for offensive players not used to playing at her level of intensity. Charles is a pass-first guard who likes to get her teammates involved and understands cerebrally how to lead a team. She proved to be the best passer in the division in the semi-finals, logging an impressive 11 assists in 40 minutes of play. Veteran guard Josephine Salmon and Naomi McKenzie play with poised control, composure and provide additional help on the glass from the guard spots. McKenzie was perfect from the floor in the semi’s – hitting all 6 of her field goal attempts, while grabbing 13 boards along the way while Salmon finished the semi’s with the second highest assist total with 11 dimes over 60 minutes of play.
On the wings Jenelle Grant is a name that has been steadily growing on everyone’s radar all summer long as she continues to take giant steps towards establishing herself as one of GB’s truly elite young prospects. A hard-working ‘gym rat’, Grant is a well-rounded player who plays both ends of the floor as evidenced by her 17 point, 11 rebound, 8 assist, 5 block, 4 steal effort across 60 minutes of play.
Naomi Campbell can score (22 points), rebound (6 boards) and pass (5 assists) with the best of them and has the playing pedigree to back it up. Skilled and and fundamentally sound, Campbell plays with purpose and has had many of the coaches over the summer picking her to make it through to the winners circle on finals night. One to watch, without a doubt.
Izle Holsteina and the sharp-shooting Ishara Bilson-Graham complete the wing attack for the Midnight All-Stars and are both capable of taking over a game in stretches, although they differ in their style of play. Holsteina is an efficient player who knows how to play to her strengths and plays hard from start to finish while Bilson-Graham could be the best shooter in the division (as evidenced by her 5 made 3’s in the semi-finals).
Lavinia Da Silva is unquestionably one of the most talented players on show and proved her dominance in the semi’s with a 23 point, 13 rebound, 6 assist, 6 block performance. Once she gets going in the paint, it could be a long night for her defenders as she is skilled, athletic and has good timing on both ends of the floor. Da Silva’s front-court running-mate is Faith Okuwosa who grabbed 11 boards en-route to the finals.
The Madness All-Stars backcourt is led by Theresa Jackson, Gem Salmon, Nicolette Fong Lyew Quee and Sevian Witter. Jackson gets buckets, racking up 35 points and 10 assists over the course of the semi-final. Confident, talented and able to score all over the court, she’ll be tough to contain in the finals. Salmon is a talented veteran who’s game demands respect from her peers – and she gets it, in bunches. A strong and vocal leader who knows how to do the little things that get the big wins, she will be a force to be reckoned with in a game that recognises quality play. Fong Lyew Quee is exciting to watch. Quick, able to get into the lane at will, she can also step back and hit from beyond the arc and may well be one to watch once she gets going. Witter is athletic and full of potential with the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways on both ends of the floor. If at her best, she can fill up a stat sheet across the board and offers versatility and a positive, coachable demeanour to the mix.
Abby Young, Ejay Ofomata, Rashana Dias and Shanice Turner will give the Midnight All-Stars all they can handle on the wings. Young proved she can score (25 points) in the semi’s while proving to be a force on the defensive interior with 5 blocks. Ofomata is, at times, the most dominant and athletic player on the floor. Able to drive and finish with the best, she has the ability to overpower defenders with her strength while causing major problems on defense – as evidenced by her division leading 9 steals in the semi-finals. Dias and Turner are both double-figure rebounders from the semi’s who both hustle hard and play to win.
Gabby Nikitinaite plays with an intensity and physicality that stood out all summer, while possessing the all-around skills that are knocking on the door of the ‘next level’. Not afraid to dive for loose balls or scrap for space, Nikitinaite has potential aplenty. The stats say she was the best 3-point shooter overall in the semi-finals, knocking down 7 3’s enroute to 31 points – numbers don’t lie. Unquestionably one to watch as the finals heat up.
The Madness All-Stars are completed by Emerald Ekpiteta who will fancy her chances of winning a spot on the travel team after her impressive 24 point, 11 rebound performance in the semi’s.
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