Before Friday night’s game against No. 10 Bullis, members of the Riverdale Baptist girls’ basketball team were given rings in white boxes to commemorate last season’s 37-2 record and top-ten finish in the national polls. Riverdale junior guard Chania Ray sat on the bench and clapped for her teammates, but she was out of place. She didn’t receive a ring, having played her freshman and sophomore seasons at St. John’s.
Ray is proving, however, that she fits right in with her new team. She scored 15 points and used a flashy presence in the backcourt to lift the second-ranked Lady Crusaders to a 66-45 rout of Bullis in Upper Marlboro.
“Of course I’m proud for my team,” Ray said. “I wish I could’ve shared the championship from last year. But it makes me want it more. Makes me want to help them get it two years in a row, and for me, my first time.”
Riverdale Baptist (15-2) is a long way from March, but Friday night’s dismantling of one of the best teams in the Independent School League provided a compelling statement. Ray scored the game’s first eight points in 45 seconds — two straight three-pointers, followed by a steal and a layup — and the Lady Crusaders used their zone press defense to force eight turnovers in the first quarter.
Bullis (8-3) didn’t threaten after its slow start. Meantime, Riverdale Baptist didn’t let up on the pressure even though it led 43-21 at halftime. The final two quarters were a time to experiment with different styles, said Coach Sam Caldwell, and Ray was at the forefront. She dazzled the home crowd with slick ball-handling and a number of no-look passes in transition and her team continued to shoot three-pointers; at one point, it even attempted an alley-oop to point guard Auteanonna Gilmore off an inbounds play. Riverdale Baptist hit seven-three pointers, including three by Ray, and 10 players finished in the scoring column.
“We’re always trying to work on stuff to get better,” Caldwell said. “It’s not about just this game, it’s always about the next game. Trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t work.”
Despite being left out of the pregame celebration, Ray looked more a part of one of the region’s best programs Friday than she has all season. Against Bullis, she said, the communication between players on the floor had never been better. And the vocal Ray was right in the middle of it all.
“Even though we were up, we couldn’t back off,” Ray said. “If we didn’t make one, we could get the next one, and [there] wasn’t a big, like, pressure on us.”