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AAU Wildcats reach national tournament final

Local HS basketball stars help in run to title game

A local girls basketball team filled with area high school stars went to the Philadelphia area during the July 4 holiday weekend and nearly took the championship at one of the summer’s largest and most prestigious tournaments.

The Unity Wildcats, an AAU team, featured players from eight different schools, and made the BlueChip USA Invitational their own showcase, knocking off all kinds of top squads on its way to a finals defeat to the highly-touted New York Gauchos. It marked the best performance any Central New York-based team has put together in this event.

Coached by Terry Mannion and Carly Cooper, the Wildcats included Westhill teammates Anna Ross and Sam Peebles, along with two players, Madison Beck and Lauren Getman, from Fayetteville-Manlius. Ross, headed for her senior season with the Warriors, has a verbal commitment to the University of Pennsylvania.

They were joined by Melissa Fumano (West Genesee), Joanna Dobrovosky (Skaneateles), Jordan Vaught (Bishop Grimes), Elizabeth Miles (Cicero-North Syracuse), Austin Stevens (South Jefferson) and Annie Giannone (Auburn), creating a versatile, exciting roster that had strength in the frontcourt and backcourt, as opponents in Philadelphia would find out.

Placed into the elite bracket of the Platinum division, the Wildcats went to work at two different Philadelphia-area venues – the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Phoenixville, and King of Prussia’s Competitive Edge Sports facility.

In all, 252 teams took part, making the odds that the Wildcats would go all the way to the top quite long, especially since, in its opening game in Platinum Bracket II it had to meet one of the two New York City Heat Clubs – which it did, and Unity was off and running.

Moving into the winner’s portion of Platinum Bracket II, the Wildcats topped the Lightning in its second game, and then knocked off Hudson Valley Elite before beating the other New York City Heat team to make it all the way to the semifinal round in the Final Platinum Bracket.

Once there, Unity played a superb semifinal and beat the Laval Nomads to earn its championship-game berth against the New York Gauchos. A poor start in the final hurt the Wildcats, though, and despite four 3-pointers from Giannone, 10 points from Ross and 10 second-half points from Dobrovosky, Unity could not make it all the way back and took a 63-50 defeat.

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