Play a nationally ranked team without your top player, one of the best in the area and the country, and your head coach? For Riverdale Baptist, that’s no problem at all.
While senior forward Jonquel Jones and Coach Diane Richardson were in Denver participating in the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association High School All-America Game, the Crusaders cruised to a convincing 73-42 win over Edgewater (Fla.) in Friday’s National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep.
“We’re a team with [Jones] and team without her,” said senior forward Jennie Simms, who finished with eight points and 11 rebounds. “De’Janae [Boykin], she stepped up. She’s capable of doing the same things Jonquel is but she’s just rookie at it … She helped us out on the boards and the bench came ready to play.”
The Crusaders (37-2) will play Dr. Phillips (Fla.) in Saturday’s final at noon on ESPN2. Dr. Phillips defeated H.D. Woodson, the Post’s second-ranked team, 65-60, in the other semifinal on Thursday.
Losing one player doesn’t hurt Riverdale Baptist as much because the Crusaders are filled with talent. All seven seniors on the team have committed to Division I schools, with senior forward Jasmine Mungo recently choosing Canisius. And more commitments are coming from the underclassmen.
“It’s great,” Mungo said. “I’ve been doing this since my freshman year. And we’ve always been really talented. But I have to say this is the closest team.”
Edgewater (28-5) was also without its top player, Baylor signee Alexis Prince, who like Jones was chosen for the WBCA game.
The Crusaders, the Post’s top-ranked team and the No. 6 team in ESPN’s national poll, were too strong, quick and big for Edgewater. They’re a team capable of running and playing an uptempo style, as they did through parts of the second and third quarters. But they also excel in the slower, half-court style.
Behind freshman Boykin (12 points and five rebounds) and senior Kelila Atkinson (14 points), the Crusaders outscored Edgewater 54-10 in the paint. The Crusaders led 15-7 after a physical first quarter. A focus on its size advantage around the basket and tough defense pushed their lead to 33-18 by the half, and Riverdale Baptist cruised from there.
In the other semifinal, H.D. Woodson (27-5) erased an early 13-point deficit and tied the game at 31-31 with nearly six minutes left in the third quarter. But with every Warriors rally came an even larger run by Dr. Phillips, which used its balance of size and shooting to stay ahead.
“We were playing a little bit of catch-up,” H.D. Woodson Coach Frank Oliver, Jr. said.
Junior guard Andrea Watkins hit a pair of three-pointers to pull the Warriors with one possession, 59-56, with 40 seconds left. Dr. Phillips (30-3), which claimed the NHSI title last season, hit six of eight free throws in the final 33 seconds to stay in front.
“All we had to do was hope they missed their free throws and they hit them down the stretch,” Oliver, Jr. said. “That’s what good teams do. It didn’t give us an opportunity to complete our comeback.”
The loss marks the end of a successful H.D. Woodon season, which featured wins over tough out-of-area opponents, a seventh straight D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title and a City Title Game victory.
“We had a great season,” senior guard Chanel Green said. “We accomplished our goals.”