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The Bob Jones girls basketball team proudly displays its championship banner after winning the NIKE Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz. Photo Contributed

Bob Jones Girls Basketball Win In The “Valley Of The Sun”

Phoenix, Ariz.- Plans could not have been better laid our or carried out to perfection for the Bob Jones girls basketball team. After nearly a year of fund-raising, travel plans preparation and a buildup of high anxiety, the Lady Patriots made their way to Phoenix, Ariz. to participate in the NIKE Tournament of Champions and came home with not only an experience of a lifetime, but a championship trophy for their trophy case.

“What an amazing experience as the surroundings were indeed different than here at home,” said senior guard and Tournament MVP Alana Obianoize.

All the 5-foot-9, highly recruited Obianoize did was score 50 points in four games including a game-high 18 in the Jon Anderson Bracket title game in which Bob Jones defeated Mullen, Colo. 47-41 enabling the Patriots to travel the more than 1,600-mile trip home hoisting the trophy as champions.

“The title game was the sixth game we played in seven days, including two games just prior to our travel to Phoenix, and you could tell fatigue had set in by the time we reached the championship game,” said Jazmine Carr head coach of Bob Jones of the team’s play in the tourney held Dec. 18-21. “Our girls found a way to hold up and play hard and I’m so proud of them.”

The Patriots made their way to the title game with three victories over some extremely talented players and teams. In game one at the Legacy Sports Park, located in Mesa, Ariz., Obianoize scored a team-high 14 points to lead Bob Jones to a 53-36 win over Phoenix County Day High. In game two, Jaliyah Smith (F, 5-11, Jr.) scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds, Janiyah Bone (G, 5-8, Sr.), Ja’Kyah Smith (G, 5-10, So.) and Obianoize scored 10 points each while Ja’Kyah Smith pulled down seven rebounds in the 65-49 victory over St. Anthony, Cal. Against undefeated Carondelet, Cal., Bob Jones fell behind the team, which had several Div. I caliber players, but outscored the elite squad in the third quarter and rolled to a 44-36 victory, thus advancing to the tournament finals. Ja’Kyah Smith had 11 points and four rebounds in the win.

Obianoize, Jaliyah Smith, Ja’Kyah Smith and Jordyn Fields (G, 5-3, Sr.) were named to the All-Tournament Team for Bob Jones (15-3), the current No. 1 ranked team in Alabama.

“I’ve had a rocky start to my game earlier in the season and turned it around in Arizona as I feel I was more focused,” said Obianoize. “I played hard, had my teammates’ backs and had nothing but team thoughts throughout our play. I was truly surprised to win the MVP honor as I feel we’re all good on our team. We contribute together equally.”

Mullen High advanced to the tournament finals against Bob Jones with victories of its own including 48-36 over a team from Arizona, 45-21 over a team from Tennessee and a victory over a squad from Missouri 40-37.

Carr, in her fifth season as head coach of Bob Jones, helped plan the trip to Phoenix as the squad and attending family members, including her husband, Patrick, traveled to Nashville for the non-stop flight to the “Valley of the Sun.” The team stayed at the Arizona Grand Resort in nearby Tempe and made some site-seeing trips including shopping and attending two college basketball games. “We saw the Arizona-Arizona State women’s game and the Alabama-Arizona men’s game while there,” added Carr. “A lot of parents came along on the trip and that was a blessing for us. The hosts of the tournament were great, and we played in a new facility that was awesome.”

For Obianoize, who is highly-recruited, but uncommitted to which college she would like to attend to study science, the trip was indeed a special for one for her. “The one moment for me personally was the last game where we played for each other and were committed to the process of winning,” she said. She is one of four sisters, with Alania who was a star volleyball player at Bob Jones and currently plays for Miles College, and her two younger sisters, Aleighya, 16, and Alaya, 14, both of whom are on the Bob Jones junior varsity team.

“We had a college scout by the name of Bob Corwin who helped us as he gave me a call and followed us and put our team in the good, competitive bracket,” added Carr. “We played against several good Div. I players and elite type teams. This is certainly going to be the highlight of our season as the trip was a great learning experience for everyone who made the trip especially our players.”

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