CHICAGO - After breezing through a competitive field of West Coast club teams to win The Class of The Field and End of The Trail Tournaments in Oregon City, the Team Concept Heat ventured east last week to test its mettle against the nation's finest AAU teams at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chicago.
The Heat had nine Division I-bound players, including four of Oregon's most highly recruited female basketball players - Jordan Reynolds, Kaillee Johnson, Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell.
At Chicago, the Heat went 6-1 against prominent national AAU teams, averaging 23 points per win. College coaches packed the stands to see the Oregon team, with than 300 college coaches in attendance; seven-time NCAA champion Gino Auriemma of Connecticut followed the Heat for three games.
Opponents mostly had no answer for Team Concept's size, smothering defense and unselfish offense. Its six victories in the top division were impressive wins over teams from Dallas, the Lady Knicks from New York, Minnesota Metro Stars, Colorado Hoopsters and the Nike-sponsored All Ohio Black.
The Heat players left the tournament feeling like they were part of an elite group, not just in Oregon, but also across the country.
'I think we played well as a team, we shared the ball, and were the hardest-working team throughout the tournament,' said Jordyn Peacock, a 6-2 senior forward from Southridge High. 'We proved we could compete with national-caliber teams.'
The Heat made the final 16 in the top bracket before its 50-47 to the sweet-shooting and scrappy Shooting Stars of Nebraska. The Nebraska team eventually lost by two points to the eventual tournament champion, the U-16 Fairfax (Va.) All Stars.
Westview High guard Nared said she felt like the Heat 'let one get away' in the loss to Nebraska. 'I was surprised how much we fit in with east coast teams,' said Nared, a 6-1 sophomore.' My sister and dad talked about how east coast teams were tougher, but I think if we played better that one game then we had a good chance of winning the tournament.'
Meanwhile, Beaverton's Alexis Montgomery and Tyleur Upshaw from Central Catholic carried the Team Concept Fire, comprised of mostly sophomores. The Fire competed in the third toughest bracket of eight, and finished with a 2-6 record, but the team had an opportunity to win every game.
The Heat will head to Las Vegas on Friday to compete in the Las Vegas Live 2011 Summer Tournament. After that, the Heat will go to Berkeley, Calif., for its final NCAA-sanctioned tourney of the summer.