The No. 1 Riverdale Baptist girls’ basketball team will play in the National High School Invitational this weekend at Georgetown Prep without Coach Diane Richardson and star senior forward Jonquel Jones. They will be in Denver participating in the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association High School All-America Game.
Richardson, one of nine WBCA district coach of the year honorees, will assist with the White team that includes the 6-foot-2 Jones, a Clemson signee who has helped lead the Crusaders to a 36-2 record and fourth consecutive season-ending No. 1 ranking in the Washington area. Richardson was one of the four top vote-getters for WBCA national coach of the year.
Top-seeded Riverdale opens NHSI play at 3:30 p.m. Friday against Florida 6A champion Edgewater, which also will be missing a key player, Baylor signee Alexis Prince, who like Jones was chosen for the WBCA game.
In the second semifinal, No. 2 H.D. Woodson faces Florida 8A champion Dr. Phillips at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The Orlando team features sophomore Taryn Griffey, the daughter of former baseball star Ken Griffey Jr.
Both semis are on ESPNU. The NHSI championship is at noon Saturday on ESPN2. If the local teams reach the final, it would give H.D. Woodson (26-5) the opportunity to avenge a 77-76 loss to Riverdale from early January.
Richardson and Jones have obligations in Denver, site of the women’s NCAA Final Four, from Friday through Sunday but said they will try to watch Riverdale play on TV. The Crusaders in recent weeks have been practicing to prepare for playing without Jones.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Jones said. “ It’s sad when you have to leave your teammates and friends and everybody to go off and play basketball somewhere else. I think everybody is capable of filling the void. We have so many different players who can do so many different things.”
Riverdale assistant Sam Caldwell will fill in for Richardson. Jennie Simms (West Virginia) and Kelila Atkinson (Wake Forest) will take on even larger roles for the Crusaders. They are two of the team’s six Division I signees.
“It’s just a huge award and something that I’ve never done,” Richardson said. “They understand that. It’s sad for both of us, but I think they’ll be able to pull through and be okay.”