Few players start the game with a better success rate than Allazia Blockton. Before the sensational Dominican junior's career is through, she's looking for that thrilling finish, as well.
Coach Kevin Schramka can't remember Blockton ever losing an opening tip — perhaps one last year — and that's just a hint of how valuable and multifaceted she has been during her career, one that has attracted the attention of numerous college coaches.
"A lot of people don't realize she plays all five positions during the game," Schramka said. "She'll bring the ball up against pressure, she gets the ball in the open court and she's an excellent passer. She doesn't get credit for her passing. She's a phenomenal scorer in the paint and has a quick jumper; she's got it all going. People forget that she jumps (during the tip) for us, too."
The 5-10 Blockton, a member of the 2014 All-Suburban Girls Basketball Team, has already amassed 16 scholarship offers, including from Big Ten schools Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin, plus Marquette and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"There was a period before the season started where we could have home visits, and I had a home visit every other day for that whole period," she said. "I was booked every other day and still had to go to work and stuff like that."
There is still one piece missing before she departs for the college hardcourt, and that's a trip to the state tournament, though Dominican (16-10) did pull one of the year's greatest upsets in the sectional semifinal this past season when it upset undefeated and top-ranked Racine Prairie, 35-34.
"Sophomore year, we lost in the third round, and this year we lost the game to go to state," Blockton said, referring to a setback against St. Mary Springs in the sectional final, 55-46. "Next year is our year for sure. I'm working really hard over the summer because it's my last year, and I really want to get this championship."
The numbers are dizzying for Blockton, who should be on the short list for the "best player in Wisconsin" discussion. She already has 1,630 points to her name after three seasons and set the single-season scoring mark for Dominican with 633 this year, breaking her old mark of 532 from a year ago. She averaged 24.3 per game, third in the state, with 11.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.4 steals.
She posted a triple-double against Destiny in the regional semifinal (27 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists) and also notched 40 points in a game earlier this year against Racine St. Catherine, another school record. Perhaps most importantly, she scored 23 points with 14 rebounds in the stunner over Prairie, a team that included Oklahoma recruit Gabby Ortiz.
"I knew how they were going to play me," Blockton said after seeing Prairie twice during the regular season. "They probably felt like they had the upper hand. I felt like we know how they play, and we know their player Gabby and what she's going to do. If she hits shots, that's fine, but let's try to limit her shots. I could camp out in the middle as a spy. I was right there to defend her with the ball, right there to double team her. Our defense was our strongest offense in that game."
Ortiz's tip attempt just before the buzzer didn't fall, and Dominican emerged with the 1-point victory.
"After that game, I stood there for a little bit because it was a dream," Blockton said. "Gabby came soaring through the air and the tip just barely missed. I heard a whistle; I thought one of the refs called a foul. I kind of postponed my celebration, but that's when I saw everyone jumping around going crazy. We just wanted it so bad. We definitely proved we wanted it more than they did."
Blockton hit the scene quickly as a freshman, playing alongside talented seniors Deysha Smith-Jenkins and Dilonna Johnson, a year in which it was Dominican that got shocked in the state playoff chase. She said she's been able to lean on her ex-teammates' experiences when it comes to the recruiting process, and she's absorbed the lessons she learned that first season.
"She's had to carry a little more responsibility (since they graduated), but she's taken on that responsibility and made the other players better and given them confidence," Schramka said. "She's taken on a lot. A lot of people don't see how we've used her. She's grown a lot since her freshman year, when we had other players who could take the responsibility off her. A lot of times, she doesn't get much rest; she has to stay on the floor as much as we could afford to have her out there.
"I just can't imagine someone being more of a prolific scorer than she's been the last two years. Teams knew about her; we're not flying low on the radar. There was a tremendous amount of help (defense) on her. She's right there with Gabby Ortiz and Arike (Ogunbowale of Divine Savior Holy Angels)."
Blockton said she feels particularly strong in her rebounding, her ability to get teammates involved and, of course, her ability to win the tip.
"Some of the tallest girls in the conference, I can jump with," she said. "I really take pride in that."
She also has a peer who knows a thing or two about winning tips and dominating at basketball. Fellow junior Diamond Stone of the boys team is one of the most high-profile recruits the state has seen in years, and he's been the centerpiece of three consecutive state titles.
"We're really good friends, and we've been friends since sixth grade," Blockton said. "I bet we've played 100 1-on-1s against each other. We have this competitive friendship, which is really good."
Next year, Blockton and Stone will look to give Dominican a sweep of gold balls in Division 4.
"Coach really gives me a lot of confidence," she said. "When I was a sophomore, I didn't get Gatorade Player of the Year or any of the press and stuff like that. But my time is going to come. I know everybody knows my name and who I am and what type of player I am."
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