This is a public service announcement to the high school girls basketball teams in the D.C. area: St. John’s has officially created a dynasty after winning its fourth state title in the last five years on Saturday.
And the area should not expect the run to end any time soon, as the Lady Cadets will graduate just one starter and will have one of the best freshman in the entire country in Azzi Fudd coming back for another three years.
Fudd, who took home tournament MVP honors after tallying 22 points and eight rebounds, led St. John’s to yet another state title by defeating Georgetown Visitation, 65-40 at George Washington University on March 3. The guard made her presence known immediately by scoring 15 points in the first half as the Cadets jumped out to 13-point lead and never looked back.
“I thought I played fine,” said Fudd as she held on to the MVP trophy. “I thought we played great as a team though and that is all that matters.
“This is great. I am really happy we ended the season this way. I am definitely going to miss the seniors.”
St. John’s put the pedal to the metal from the get-go and jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first 1:13 of the game. Fudd scored five of those points and was busy cleaning the glass along with teammate Malu Tshitenge.
Georgetown did not score its first points of the game until the 5:30 mark when Megan Nayak got a rebound and a putback. The Cubs had trouble both handling the Cadets’ swarming pressure and keeping them off the glass, but still managed to close the gap to six (22-16) midway through the second quarter. However, St. John’s went on a 10-3 run to close the frame thanks to six more points from Fudd and led 32-19 heading into the break.
“It was just the start we were looking for,” joked Georgetown Visitation head coach Mike McCarthy. “We just didn’t play that well. Our two best players had tough games. Some of that was (St. John’s) defense and some of it was us.
“At halftime the rebounds were 25-11. We would play good D, but then we wouldn’t get a rebound. I think half their points in the first half were second-chance points. Against that team, we need to score, not turn it over and rebound. And we didn’t.”
There were times throughout the third quarter that Georgetown played great defense and had St. John’s rushing against the shot clock – only to give up a wide open shot that the Cadets would knock down, or clean up the miss with an offensive rebound and a putback.
That relentlessness and refusal to waste a possession, along with all of the talent of the court, is what St. John’s head coach Jonathan Scribner said beats teams down.
“That’s what happens when so much focus is put on Azzi,” Scribner said. “Then they have to put a ton of focus on Sydney Wood, who drove to the basket relentlessly. Then they have to make sure they are guarding Malu. Well, Carly (Rivera) and Alex (Cowan) are out here on the perimeter and have been shooting the ball great for the last month and are just knocking down shots. That is tough to guard.”
Rivera’s three-pointer as the buzzer sounded seemed to be the dagger, as it gave the Cadets a 47-30 advantage heading into the final quarter.
Fudd credited her team’s defense for the growing lead.
“Defense is a really big priority for us,” Fudd said. “Offense, we talk about that stuff, but not as much because coach knows we can handle it on our own. As long as we get our stops on defense then it should be our game.”
The fourth quarter was more of a formality as St. John’s cruised to the 25-point victory.
Tshitenge (10 points, 16 rebounds) and Wood (10 points, 10 rebounds) each finished with double-doubles, while Cowan added nine points on three triples. Rivera added eight points, five rebounds and four assists.
The numbers were not great for the Cubs (25-5) as they shot just 31 percent from the floor, 4-of-18 from three-point land, and 4-of-9 from the charity stripe. Ellie Mitchell, Julianne Greenville and Claire Burke led the team with eight points apiece.
Despite the lop-sided loss, McCarthy was happy with the season his team had.
“This season has been great,” he said. “We knew it was a tall order to beat them, and we needed our best effort, and we just didn’t have it. But we still had a great group of girls and a great season. I have no complaints.”
Meanwhile, Scribner reflected on his girls’ 32-2 season and yet another state trophy to add to the case.
“It’s the best,” Scribner said. “I was born and raised here in D.C., and to win the city title is a very important thing for me, for our school, for our program. So it feels great.”