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AAU instant classic: Thunder top FBC United in 4OT to win U17 UA title

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The West Virginia Thunder celebrate after defeating FBC United 80-77 in the championship of the 2023 GUAA tournament Monday in Manheim, Pa. (Mina Park/Just Women's Sports)

MANHEIM, Pa. — FBC United led the West Virginia Thunder 21-14 at the end of the first quarter in Monday afternoon’s Girls Under Armour Association U17 championship, and top-seeded FBC United had outrun, outrebounded and outshot the Thunder.

But with the game tied up late in the fourth overtime period, Dee Alexander drained a bucket to give the Thunder the lead, and they held on in the final seconds for an 80-77 victory over FBC United at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex.

“It was a tough game from the beginning,” Alexander said. “We had four overtimes and we had to step up to win the game like we were supposed to. FBC was very tired. They couldn’t take it no more.

“We knew what we were supposed to do. This is what our goal was, and we came to win.”

From the moment the Atlanta-area powerhouse first took the floor donning warm-up jerseys with “PROVE THEM WRONG” emblazoned across the front, to the moment Stanford commit Courtney Ogden hit a 3-pointer to take the first lead of the game, it was clear that FBC United knew exactly what needed to be done.

“This is how we play,” FBC United’s Jaloni Cambridge said. “I’m not gonna lie, I was really tired. But I had to figure out a way because playing fast is our key to the game.”

Cambridge hadn’t been with the team since May because she was helping guide the USA U17 National Team to a gold medal in Hungary, while her FBC United teammate Ogden had done the same a month earlier with the U18 National Team in Argentina.

Every member of FBC United’s starting lineup — Cambridge, Ogden, UNC commit Reniya Kelly, Alabama commit Essence Cody and 2024 power forward Joyce Edwards — is elite. The squad found total synergy early on, and it showed.

It took the Thunder a bit longer to kick things into gear. Whenever Alexander or 2023 standout Kymora Johnson tried to heat things up, there was often a disconnect somewhere else. The team that moved as one earlier in the weekend couldn’t seem to find its footing.

The height advantage for FBC United didn’t hurt either — the top-seeded team has an average height more than two inches taller than that of the Thunder.

FBC United took a 37-27 lead into halftime, and the second quarter didn’t feel much different than the first. In fact, the two teams met earlier in the GUAA circuit during Session I in April when FBC United won handily, 70-43.

However, what happened in the second half was not only a testament to Thunder coach Scott Johnson, but also to the grit of his players.

Slowly but surely, West Virginia locked in, led by a double-figure scoring effort from 2025 standout ZaKiyah Johnson, the small forward who was given the task of matching up against Edwards.

Having the patience and understanding of exactly when and where to strike beneath the basket is one thing, but for ZaKiyah Johnson and Edwards — who both play an unselfish, up-tempo style — it became a spectacle.

“That’s definitely the game I love,” ZaKiyah Johnson said. “I love competing. I love the pressure. It was so fun, and I can’t wait until next year.”

The West Virginia Thunder's Kymora Johnson cuts down the net after the Thunder defeated FBC United 80-77 in the championship of the 2023 GUAA tournament Monday in Manheim, Pa. (Mina Park/Just Women's Sports)

The Thunder muscled their first lead of the game with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter when Kymora Johnson drained a bucket to give her side a 46-45 advantage.

That moment was key, as everything for the Thunder seemed to fall into place.

Forcing turnovers, making big blocks, drawing fouls — FBC United was still very much plugged in, but the control they previously had in the first half was gone. At the end of the third quarter, the Thunder remained on top, 52-50.

Packed like sardines, unbelievably hot and expecting a fight in the fourth quarter, the crowd gathered around the court continued to grow over the course of the game.

In the fourth quarter, ZaKiyah Johnson and Alexander were the difference, using stifling defense and battling for every loose ball to push the Thunder’s lead to as many as six points in the final period.

FBC United kept their foot on the gas. Clutch plays from Cambridge, Cody and Edwards allowed FBC United to stay in it.

In fact, Cody set her team up for the win with a hard-fought bucket with just under two minutes remaining. She was fouled on the shot but couldn’t connect on the free throw, and Alexander grabbed the rebound and took it to the basket to tie things up at 65-all.

Trailing 69-67 with 5.3 seconds left in the first overtime period, Thunder 2023 point guard Timberlynn Yeast went to the line with an opportunity to tie the game.

“I was nervous, but I’m proud of this team,” Yeast said. “I just knew I had to hit those free throws for us to win.”

Yeast remained calm and collected, and she did just that, sending both teams into the second overtime tied at 69-all.

With GUAA rules limiting the remaining overtime periods to just one minute in length, Ogden opened the second extra period with a 3-pointer, and the crowd erupted when Thunder 2023 power forward Ella Weaver answered on the other end with her own shot from beyond the arc, tying the game at 72-72 with 14.5 seconds left on the clock.

Alexander forced a key turnover, and FBC United coach Alfred Motton called a timeout. It was obvious that West Virginia felt the tide turning in its favor, as Kymora Johnson began hyping up the crowd.

FBC United forced a turnover of their own, but Alexander blocked a shot at the other end, sending both teams into a third overtime.

In the fourth overtime, a three-point play by Alexander pushed the Thunder ahead 75-72, but Cambridge did the same thing on the other end to tie things back up, 75-75.

Then, ZaKiyah Johnson won another battle beneath the basket against Edwards, and after Alexander’s bucket gave the Thunder the lead for good, Yeast went to the free-throw line with 6.1 seconds remaining. She missed her first shot but hit the second, and FBC United was unable to answer.

“I feel like West Virginia’s price? Yesterday’s price ain’t today’s price,” Thunder coach Scott Johnson laughed after the comeback win. “The price is going up for the program. I’m ecstatic for the girls. I’m at a loss for words right now.”

Click here to see a recap of Sunday’s action.

GUAA championship scores

U17: West Virginia Thunder 80, FBC United 77

U16: Northwest Blazers 57, Bay State Jaguars 54

U15: Northwest Blazers 49, Western PA Bruins 34

Caroline Makauskas is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also writes about college basketball for Blue Ribbon Sports and covers a variety of sports on her TikTok @cmakauskas. Follow her on Twitter @cmakauskas.