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

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.”

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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.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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