Many challengers to Exodus NYC’s Rose Classic dominance

The high school girls basketball season might have just ended, but that doesn’t mean the players are hanging up their sneakers. Quite the contrary. Starting Saturday, New York City’s best will be competing in the Nike Rose Classic at JHS 113 in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

League president Anton Marchand said this spring’s version could be the best – and most competitive – yet. Exodus NYC, coached by Apache Paschall, has had a stranglehold on the championship at the Rose for four years – the only other team to win was Munch Llopiz’s No Limit squad at the very first one in the spring of 2006.

“I’m so sick of handing him the trophy every year,” Marchand joked. “But he’s doing it fair and square, so what can you do?”

Exodus NYC, which has won five crowns in a row over the last four years and is made up primarily of girls from St. Michael Academy, will have some staunch competition this time. It’ll start with the Golden Girls, another Exodus squad coached by Lauren Best. The team filled with the city’s best seniors has flamed out the last few years, Marchand said, but this compilation of talent – led by North Babylon’s Bria Hartley and St. Mike’s Jennifer O’Neill, both McDonald’s All-Americans – will be hard to beat.

Marchand, though, said the key for the Golden Girls could be Syracuse-bound forward Jelleah Sidney. She was the glue who kept together St. Mike’s last year as it won the New York State Federation Class AA title.

Another contender should be Swagga is Back, coached by Dinero Young of the NY/Philly Belles. Young has put together a monster team led by Christ the King’s Bria Smith and Murry Bergtraum’s CeCe Dixon and Doris Ortega. But it’s the out-of-towners who make this team all the more interesting: McDonald’s All-Americans Maggie Lucas (Germantown Academy) and Ronika Ransford (H.D. Woodson) and Duke-bound Haley Peters (The Peddie School). Lucas and Ransford are going to Penn State and Georgia, respectively.

Swagga is playing all its games the first weekend in May to accommodate the non-New York residents. Ring City, making its Rose debut, will also have a few of those, led by Neptune’s phenomenal backcourt of Syessence Davis and Shakena Richardson.

Not to be left out are a pair of Brooklyn teams that could make a run. Bishop Ford coach Mike Toro’s Lady Falcons, another Exodus offshoot, will be led by Shanice Vaughan. They will get an early test right off the bat in Saturday’s main event against the Golden Girls at 6:45 pm.

South Shore coach Anwar Gladden’s Team Prince will boast Providence-bound guards Alicia Cropper and Danielle Pearson to go along with Jasmine Odom and a bevy of talented youngsters.

As always, that list of names could change. And when the playoffs come, there’s no telling who might show up – kind of like the Rose’s brother tournament is8.

“They’re going to do anything to beat [Apache],” Marchand said. “But it doesn’t always work.”