In a rematch of an overtime thriller three weeks ago, St. John’s girls’ varsity basketball team secured a 64-58 win at home against Bishop McNamara in front of a sold-out home crowd.
St. John’s, now 25-1 (14-0 WCAC), entered the game ranked #2 in the country by USA Today, while McNamara, which fell to 23-2 (12-2 WCAC), came into the game ranked #4.
“It feels great,” SJC Assistant Coach Brian Brennan said after the game. “It’s a tribute to these kids. They do an amazing job as a group, they’re always zeroed in.”
Carly Rivera ’19 added: “It feels pretty good. Not a lot of teams get the opportunities that we get, so when we capitalize on them, it’s really good.”
McNamara opened the game with a full court press, creating early turnovers for an early margin. But the Cadets responded with defensive stands, and some clutch shooting from Azzi Fudd ’21 and Kelis Corley ’20 gave St. John’s a 23-17 lead after one quarter.
“My team really helped me with moving around the court,” said Corley, who finished with eight points. “We just get out there and do what we do, score, play defense, and we just win.”
The second quarter was a quiet one as the Mustangs added just seven points to their total against the Cadets’ six, all scored by Fudd, to make the score 29-24 at the half.
When asked about the McNamara defense, Fudd responded: “We played even better defense. They were stopping us from scoring, which they didn’t really, I mean, we scored 64, but we locked up our defense even more.”
Both teams traded runs during the third quarter, with players attacking the paint to score or draw fouls. Entering the fourth quarter, St. John’s lead was a thin 46-43 margin.
“We kept the ball moving with the pass fakes and all,” said Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo ’19, who scored eight points. “We had to get them off their feet so we could pass the ball and make them foul us.”
St. John’s led for most of the game, but with 1:55 remaining, the Mustangs hit a three to tie the game. But Head Coach Jonathan Scribner told his players “we’re going to win this game,” and that’s just what happened. Fudd and Rivera made all six of their combined shots from the free throw line, and Fudd capitalized on a turnover forced by Alex Cowan ’19 to lay in the final shot of the game.
“I had confidence that we were going to keep our lead, but that layup was like ‘Yes, it’s over. We got this,’” Fudd told The Washington Post after the game.
Fudd finished the game with 28 points, while holding her counterpart, McDonald’s All-American Jakia Brown-Turner, to 11 points. Fudd was honored before the game for her gold medal with the US National Team at the FIBA Under-17 World Cup in Belarus last July.
“I finally hit shots, so that’s good, but all around, the whole team played really well,” Fudd said.
Gallagher Gymnasium was sold out with a little less than an hour left before tip off, and the students packed the house for the white-out. Running back and recent Alabama signee Keilan Robinson ’19, dressed in a boys’ basketball uniform and sunglasses, energized the fans from the front row.
The Mustangs’ only losses on the year are to St. John’s, the first from Jan. 22, a 67-65 overtime loss at home. Meanwhile, St. John’s has only one loss, a 44-41 loss to now-#1 Miami Country Day School (FL) at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, AZ, on Dec. 20.
But even after a monumental win, St. John’s is focused on the future.
“It feels great, but we gotta keep pushing,” Tshitenge-Mutombo said. “Learn from this win, and push for the next game.”