Grambling's James is star among stars

Her 27 points pace South to win in Black Classic here

April 11, 1999|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

By the time the North All-Stars figured out how to contain South guard Felicia James, the damage had been done yesterday afternoon during the women's portion of the Black College All-Star Classic at the Baltimore Arena.

North coach and WNBA star Ruthie Bolton-Holifield made her wishes known midway through the second half -- "I want someone to stop her," the Sacramento Monarch told her team -- but James led a 17-2 run that propelled the South to a 71-65 victory, earning her the game's MVP award.

James, a senior from Grambling State, had 27 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals as the opening act for the men's game, where MVP Antwain Smith of St. Paul's (Va.) had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead the North to a 97-83 win over the South.

Washington Mystics guard and South coach Penny Moore said she only hoped that yesterday was the last time she had to see James until her summer season starts in June.

"I just hope that she doesn't try out for the Mystics, because I don't want to fight her for my spot," Moore said.

After averaging a solid though not eye-popping 13.4 points while leading Grambling to a 24-5 record, the native of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands said she gained a lot of confidence following her team's first-round defeat against Alabama. In that game, she remembered holding her own against Dominique Canty, an All-American in each of the last two seasons.

"I think I did a pretty good job on [Canty] in our last game of the year," said James, who worked alongside San Antonio Spurs All-Star Tim Duncan at basketball camps in the Virgin Islands. "This was my opportunity to show that I'm still ready to play ball. It feels pretty good."

The North, led by Bowie State's Rashida Brooks, used a size advantage to control the first half, scoring 12 straight points at one point and taking a 38-31 lead into the half. But that edge vaporized immediately after halftime as James took over.

James, who was attired in shoes that fit yesterday after flopping around in size 12s at practice Friday, scored 11 of her 14 second-half points in the first 10 minutes after the intermission.

For the most part, the scores were hard-won, with drives to the basket resulting in either layups or free throws.

She did this in such a manner that her opponents did not feel dominated.

"I think I did a pretty good job defending her," said Trenita Shields, the North guard from Bowie State who finished with eight points. "She had a pretty quick first step, and while it's not that hard to defend, it is. We should have forced her into shooting more jump shots."

After the spurt, James had 24 points and the South had a 50-40 lead with a little more than seven minutes left.

She only scored three more points after that, and while the North closed to within 53-50 on a basket by Brooks, failures at the free-throw line dashed any late comeback hopes. For Shields and for Brooks, a 6-foot-5 center who finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, it was also a rare chance to play against players at bigger schools. Brooks also found out what qualities she needs if she wants to play pro basketball in the United States.

"I feel like I did OK," said Brooks, who averaged 15.2 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs, who made the NCAA Division II tournament in each of her final three years. "In the first half, I did OK, but in the second half, I slacked off on defense. I think I get up and down the floor OK, but I probably need to work on my strength."

On the men's side, Coppin State's Fred Warrick had 12 points and six rebounds and teammate Dorian Pena had 16 rebounds to go along with eight points for the winning North.

Morgan State's Rasheed Sparks had six points and four rebounds and Overlea product Tyrone Thomas (Winston-Salem State) had six points and three assists, also for the North.

Pub Date: 4/11/99

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