Firecracker 16u Clement Runs the Table at Atlantic City
Game 1: Firecrackers 51- DC Premier
The 16u A Firecrackers found themselves in a very difficult pool and there was little time to adapt with an athletic DC team right off the bat. Paige Cote and Camille Clement got the party started with hoops but DC answered and raised the ante quickly before Maggie Whitmore hit a three to get the Firecrackers within two, 9-7. DC had a heavily recruited and extremely quick “Iverson-like” guard (even wore #3) whom Julz Colby stripped at mid-court and beat to the rim to tie the game before DC scored on consecutive
possessions. After a Camille Clement three, Maggie Whitmore found the middle of the 2:3 zone on a nice pass from Colby and the score was 20-17 DC. The Firecrackers struggled with long balls against the zone and went into halftime down 25-22. In the second half Gemima Motema wowed the spectators with an impressive soaring drive before Colby slivered between two defenders after receiving a hand off from Cote for 2 more. When Amanda Kabantu scored on consecutive drives, the game was tied at 31 before Maggie Whitmore took over finding gaps in the zone, the first of which came on a terrific feed from Caroline Smith. SP teammate Kaliesha Towle came up with a soaring offense rebound and dished to Whitmore for another and the Firecrackers led 34-33. #3 for DC proved difficult to contain as she scored on 3 consecutive possessions before Paige Cote threaded the needle on a nifty pass to Whitmore. The Mainers tied the game at 45 on Maggie Whitmore’s floater and took the lead on another Cote to Whitmore
hook up. Whitmore iced the game with 2 foul shots to secure a 51-47 win.
Whitmore led all scorers with 17, Clement added 10, while Kabantu and Colby each scored 9.
Game 2: Firecrackers 49 – BNY Select 38
This was a rematch of an intense battle in Chicago last July in which BNY prevailed. The NY team had four division one players, with one heading to Syracuse. Whitmore, Cote, and Kabantu got off to good starts but the rest of the Firecrackers were cold and the Mainers found themselves in an unsettling position against a strong team, down 20-10. As was the case all weekend, the Firecrackers dug in and battled back with defensive stops and good ball movement leading to scoring from Cote, Kabantu, and Whitmore to close the gap to 22-20 at the half. The second half was a back and forth affair until Kaleisha Towle sparked a run with 2 steals and 3 baskets (one on a beautiful assist from Motema) while Caroline Smith asserted herself with 3 rebounds and a beautiful driving layup in traffic to put the Firecrackers ahead 36-34. Good ball control from Smith, Colby, Clement, and Kabantu allowed the Firecrackers to manage the clock and cruise to a 49-38 win, helped by 13-14 team foul shooting.. All Firecrackers scored in this one with Cote and Kabantu tallying 12 each, Whitmore 10, and Towle six to lead the pack.
Game 3: Firecrackers 47- PA Dynamite 43
Heading into game three with a 2-0 record meant a win would secure finishing the pool in first place and securing a ticket in the pool E-H playoffs. A key to this game would be limiting the 6’1” future Faith
Blethen teammate/George Washington bound Espo-look alike star for the Dynamite. Maggie Whitmore was given the defensive assignment along with Kaleisha Towle and both did an exceptional job, holding the standout to 7 total points but the rest of the Dynamite proved prolific also as they jumped out to a 18-8 lead with only Kabantu and Whitmore scoring baskets. Fortunately the Firecracker half court trapping defense reversed the tide after being in a 24-14 hole, leading to consecutive baskets by Clement and
another by Whitmore courtesy of two Julz Colby steals and the Firecrackers closed the gap to 27-22 at the half. In the second half Camille Clement broke out of her shooting slump with 2 quick threes and Whitmore also caught fire with two 2’s and a three. A Colby assist to Whitmore gave the Firecrackers a 43-40 lead before Clement added a layup in traffic to extend the lead to 45-40 but the Dynamite answered to tighten the gap to 45-44 before Amanda Kabantu broke free of full court pressure and exploded for the final basket to seal the deal, 47-43. Whitmore (21) and Clement (17) led the scoring attack while Kabantu added 6.
Game Four: Pool E-H Semifinals. Firecrackers 46- Miami Sun Fowles 34
The Suns (sponsored by WNBA star Sylvia Fowles) defeated perennial powerhouse NY Gauchos to win their pool so this was likely to be a tall task for the humble Mainers but surprisingly the Firecrackers jumped out to a quick lead courtesy of an impressive drive in traffic by Amanda Kabantu and a strong finish by Paige Cote assisted by Clement. When Gemima Motema converted a steal into a highlight worthy “rock the baby” left/right/left finish up above the backboard (she can grab the rim), the Sun were forced to call a timeout down 12- 4. Miami battled back with repeated drives and getting to the foul line but Clement knocked down a three, Whitmore hit one of her own, and then Caroline Smith assisted Colby
and Cote for a 22-18 Firecracker lead. In the last two minutes of the half southpaw Clement hit two more 3’s and Motema had a nice finish courtesy of Kaleisha Towle’s pass to close out the half with a 30-17 lead. The Firecrackers maintained an 8-10 point lead most of the second half thanks to solid half court team defense along with balanced and unselfish offense. Camille Clement led a balanced scoring attack with 11, Whitmore contributed 9, Kabantu 8 (4 offensive rebounds), 6 each from Motema (2 blocked shots) and Colby (5 assists), while Towle added 5 rebounds to go with stout defense and Caroline Smith displayed her full arsenal of versatile and spirited play.
Game 5: Pool E-H Finals. Firecrackers 53 – QTS Fusion 51
The tournament director split the top 32 teams out of 200+ into 8 brackets of four teams so the E-H Championship was considered one of two top divisions of sixteen teams. It was a battle for the Firecrackers to get out of the pool as there was no weak link and this game would have to be played well for the Mainers to have a chance. There were questions about how much was left in the tank with a roster of 8 and many miles run in a short time period. The game started out with classic championship intensity
with a relatively large crowd gathered. Julz Colby got out of the gate fast with a driving floater over a 6’3” opponent and followed it with a pure three to tie the game at 5-5. When QTS (North Virginia) converted twice in transition the Firecrackers found themselves in a deficit but Paige Cote converted a nice feed from Caroline Smith, Clement drained a long three, and Amanda Kabantu streaked ahead of the pack for a terrific explosive layup and the Firecrackers took back the lead 16-15. QTS made a run of their own after forcing two turnovers and pulled ahead 30-25 with the Firecrackers once again finding themselves behind at the middle stanza. Fortunately the significant conditioning done over the past few months
revealed itself and the Firecrackers surged back to the lead with a triple from Clement, tremendous reverse layup by Whitmore in traffic, a critical foul shot by Smith, and a vintage Motema soaring drive to the hoop that knotted the score at 36-36. QTS took the lead back again but back to back treys from Kabantu and Clement tied the game at 42 with five minutes to go when Maggie Whitmore took over, scoring on three consecutive possessions (long 2, spinning left hand layup, and floater) and the Firecrackers led 52-51. QTS was forced to foul with 14 seconds left and Amanda Kabantu hit the first of two free throws but QTS lost the rebound out of bounds as the Firecrackers secured the championship. Maggie Whitmore was tremendous in this one with 20 points (15 in the second half), Clement scored 11,
Julz Colby 9, Kabantu 8, while Cote (7 rebounds) Towle (terrific defense) and Smith (solid all around play) each added 2.
This was a well-run tournament with nice facilities and the Firecrackers were fortunate to get outstanding competition in all five games from excellent programs. The girls from Maine have a lunch bucket mentality and continued to stick together even when they got down and somehow found a way in all five games. They are not the flashiest or most talented Firecracker team ever but they play well together and showed a lot of heart/character while representing Maine and playing in front of a large number of college coaches including Northeastern, Marist, Holy Cross, UNH, UMass, Columbia, Colgate, Assumption, Stonehill, Providence, Davidson, American, Richmond, UNE, Dartmouth, Trinity, Fordham, BU, Suffolk,NJ Institute of Technology, Emmanuel, Regis, Loyola, and Harvard.