Riverdale Baptist girls’ basketball won the second national title in program history, easily handling Fremont (Utah), 60-35, in the final of the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament on Saturday morning in New York.
The Crusaders quickly looked comfortable at Madison Square Garden, scoring the game’s first 15 points. Fremont, Utah’s Class 5A state champion, committed 28 turnovers and couldn’t handle the Crusaders’ zone pressure and half-court traps. The Crusaders, who finished the regular season as the top-ranked team in The Post’s top 20, held Fremont to 22.6 percent shooting (12 for 53).
“This feels great. What a tremendous opportunity for us to play in Madison Square Garden,” Riverdale Baptist Coach Sam Caldwell said. “I mean it’s the Mecca of basketball. I’m just so happy for our program and our school.”
All-Met Chania Ray, who scored the game-winning basket in Friday’s thriller, poured in a game-high 22 points in the final and dished out four assists to earn the Most Valuable Player award.
“I think we always expect to play good, but the way we came out today was just amazing,” Jackson said.”I don’t know what I would do without [Ray]…we were just be able to grow together.”
Riverdale Baptist advanced to the final by using a furious second-half rally to defeat Edgewater (Fla.) in Friday’s semifinals.
It was Ray who engineered that 59-58 win to advance to the final. It was the second time the team had won by that score in the final seconds in the past month. The Crusaders (29-3) won the National Association of Christian Athletes tournament title in Tennessee in late February, beating New Hope (N.C.) 59-58 on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Jackson.
The prestigious tournament was held in New York for the first time. It was previously known as the National High School Invitational (NHSI) and had been held at Georgetown Prep since 2009.
Riverdale Baptist, which finished as the Post’s top-ranked team for the fifth time in the last six seasons last month, won the National High School Invitational in 2012. Caldwell’s team joins Dr. Phillips (Fla.) as the only two-time tournament champions.
“I couldn’t ask for another way to end the season, of course. It’s just a great feeling,” Jackson said. “It was big. It was a dream, for real.”