Boo Williams was disappointed, but not discouraged after a long day ended with his elite girls' 16-and-under AAU basketball team eliminated from the weekend's Nike Invitational that bears his name.
Boo's girls fell to a smart, cohesive, if undermanned, New Jersey Demons outfit 66-52 Saturday night in the quarterfinals at the BooPlex.
"We have to start faster and play balls-to-the-wall defense the whole game," said guard Taja Cole, a sophomore from Richmond's L.C. Byrd High. "We have a lot of talent. It's still early in the season. I think we'll be a great team by the end."
Indeed, Boo’s girls are deep, athletic and versatile, with highly-rated players dotting the roster. Cole is one of them, a top-35 level talent in both the Blue Star report and
Jatarie White is one of the highest-rated post players in the Class of 2014, and sophomore wing De'Janae Boykin from suburban D.C., one of the top five players in the Class of 2015.
But after winning their pool Saturday afternoon and advancing to the quarterfinals, Boo's girls fell behind 12-4 early and never caught up. They were within three points late in the first half before trailing by nine at halftime. They were never closer than nine in the second half.
The New Jersey team, based out of the New Brunswick and Plainfield areas, had only seven players and wasn't exceptionally tall or athletic. But they played well together and had a clever point guard in Kate Flaherty (16 points) and a versatile talent in 6-1 wing Taylor Rooks (25 points), the Gatorade and Newark Star-Ledger state Player of the Year.
"It would take us three months to beat that team," Boo said, only partly in jest. "That's a hard team to play catch-up against and a hard team to play in April. They have shooters and they play smart. They're really well-coached. I think we'd play them better in July than April."
"Coach told us it was going to be a dogfight," Cole said. "We knew they were a good team and they had good players. We try not to underestimate anybody we play. This game was about tempo and we never really got going."
Guard Shrita Parker, from Ocean Lakes in Virginia Beach, led Boo's team with 12 points and White, the 6-4 junior from Charlotte, scored 10. Cole scored nine. The 6-2 Boykin led Boo's team in scoring in its two pool games earlier Saturday, with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
But the Jersey team represented a step up in competition, the kind that Boo's team will see the remainder of the summer – in terms of talent, cohesiveness or both.
"I told the girls, 'Geno stuck around and watched the whole game,'" Boo said. "He wouldn't have done that if there wasn't something worth watching."