FCA claims summer league title

The second edition of the Women's Pilot Rocky Top League was deemed a success based on crowd turnout and sponsorship with Shekinna Stricklen's FCA team taking the title in Thursday's finale. Another highlight of the final evening of league play in 2011 was Meighan Simmons draining nine treys and pouring in 47 points.

But the evening also had a significant blemish with the left knee injury sustained by Kamiko Williams, the extent of which won't be known until additional medical evaluation. Williams, a junior guard for Tennessee, will be examined Friday by team medical personnel.

Williams arrived a tad late to the second game between her Smith & Hammaker team and Pilot but entered quickly and performed well, scoring on drives and cuts to the basket and making assists.

Less than two minutes before the first half ended, Williams drove the right baseline and made a move in the paint around Pilot's Isabelle Harrison, but when she went to hit a reverse layup, she didn't leave the ground and instead went to the floor. Williams tried to get up and walk it off but had to sit back down and then limp to the bench.

Williams remained at the gym, where she was examined by the league's medical personnel, cheered for her team until the end of the game and then packed her orange Lady Vol basketball shoes in a Superman backpack and headed back to campus. The extent and nature of Williams' injury won't be known until Tennessee's staff can examine her and make the diagnosis.

The last day of the league began with the game between Duncan, which evened its record at 3-3, and the News Sentinel, which finished at 0-6, after the 78-67 loss. Karly Stache continued to score for the News Sentinel with 28 points while Mariah Britton added 18. Taylor Mills led the way for Duncan with 25 points while Faith Dupree added 18.

The second game saw Pilot improve its record to 4-2 with the 87-63 defeat of Smith & Hammaker, which finished at 3-3. Meighan Simmons scorched the nets for 47 points for Pilot – arguably the best team in the league by week's end because of injury and attrition on other teams – that included nine treys. Isabelle Harrison added 11 points while Shannon Parks tallied 12.

Alyssia Brewer had 17 points for Smith & Hammaker while Jessica Walter added 13 and Jessica Trice of Powell High School chipped in with 10.

With the league compressed into two weeks, Brewer said her Achilles tendon felt the activity by Thursday.

"This third game in a row definitely took a toll on my Achilles so I was a little slower than usual," Brewer said. "But we try not to do too much whenever we see one of our teammates injured."

The Lady Vols did play cautiously in the league, being careful to avoid scrums and to not leave their feet without an uncluttered place to land. Williams' injury came without contact, but after Alicia Manning got her eyebrow sliced open by an opponent's elbow Tuesday, the Tennessee players were trying to avoid calamity in the final week.

Shekinna Stricklen, who tweaked her knee in last year's league play in her penultimate game, emerged this summer unscathed and with the league crown after FCA finished 5-1 with a 91-68 win over DeRoyal, which ended at 3-3 and lost three straight games after the exit of Glory Johnson for a family vacation and the injury to Manning.

Former Lady Vol Dominique Redding tallied 30 points for DeRoyal, while Kaylah Cutshaw, who plays for CAK, added 16.

Stricklen nailed four treys – including a deep one over a defender that wowed the crowd at Christian Academy of Knoxville – and finished with 20 points. Lenoir City High School long ball sensation Tyler Powers had 22 points while Mandy Mendenhall added 15 and Bailey Roberts chipped in with 12.

FCA, a guard-oriented team, prevailed with the three-pointer – the one loss occurred when Stricklen and Powers misfired against Pilot earlier in the week – ball movement and spacing.

"I really liked our team," Stricklen said. "I think we had the best team. We had the shooters. And our team just got along great. I became friends with all of them, and I think we'll keep in touch. I had fun this whole time."

Stricklen used the two weeks to showcase her long ball range, which was well behind the three-point line. Her usual firing distance was 22 to 25 feet, and she even uncorked a few 30-footers. By the end of the game Redding was guarding Stricklen at half court.

The women's line will move back a foot this coming season to match the men's at 20 feet, nine inches. It shouldn't matter for the senior Stricklen, who smiled and said that wasn't her last 30-footer.

"I am going to talk to Coach," Stricklen said. "She'll probably let me. I am going to be deep."

Stricklen, an All-American who is likely to be a first round draft pick and playing in the WNBA next summer, said she enjoyed the league and relaxed interaction with fans. After Thursday's game ended, young children surrounded Stricklen to get her autograph on their Rocky Top League T-shirts.

After two years, the fledging women's league has witnessed enough support to continue operations. One change is likely to be at the commissioner's spot. Founding member Habibi Andre, who shepherded the league from idea to fruition, now works for a resort out of state and hasn't been able to be in town. Atlee Hammaker, who was on the league committee and ran the league this summer in her absence, is likely to take a more active role heading into the third year, though the voice of Andre is still needed, even if from afar.

"I would love for her to be involved," Hammaker said.

The league filled out rosters with at least a dozen high school players and while their participation will be sought again, Hammaker also wants more players from area Division I and junior colleges such at Tennessee-Chattanooga, Tennessee Tech, East Tennessee State University and Walters State. He planned to visit in person with the athletic directors to solicit support.

Hammaker also said the league needed to start in mid-June – the NCAA sets the allowed start date – and finish by July 4 as the men's league did.

With AAU Nationals in Dallas this week, the league lost standout player Marjorie Butler, who joined her summer team, and Hammaker, whose daughter Anna is one of the state's top prospects. He accompanied his daughter to Texas with her AAU team. The dip into July also meant Lady Vols Johnson and Taber Spani headed out of town for the break.

Hammaker also indicated that the venue might need to stay put at CAK so that the event has a permanent home to build a steady base.

"I think it may be better to anchor it in one place," Hammaker said.

CAK has air-conditioning and adequate parking to accommodate fans.

"I love the turnout," Hammaker said. "I love the people coming to support the Lady Vols."

The participation of the Lady Vols is vital if the league is to continue, as they are the draw for fans, media and sponsors.

"I was overwhelmed with that part so I hope that continues – the turnout, the support we had from the media," Hammaker said.

He also said the primary objective is that the participants have a good time.

"We want it to be fun and for them to want to play in it," Hammaker said.

VIDEO COVERAGE

Game One: Duncan Automotive vs. The News Sentinel

Game Two: Smith & Hammaker vs. Pilot

Alyssia Brewer

Meighan Simmons and Isabelle Harrison

Game Three: FCA vs. DeRoyal

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