No Conference, No Problem for Riverdale Baptist

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Riverdale Baptist, which finished atop the area girls' basketball rankings, has no league affiliation. That can prove inconvenient when trying to put together a schedule but also liberating because it enables the Crusaders to play several teams that they likely would not get to play otherwise.

This season, Riverdale played, and beat, No. 7 Arundel, No. 8 Good Counsel, No. 12 Forest Park (twice), No. 15 Holy Cross and four other teams that were ranked at some point -- Blake, St. John's, Bishop McNamara and Virginia AAA quarterfinalist Stonewall Jackson.

Riverdale's two losses, and two of its most impressive wins, were at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona, and it also won the National Association of Christian Athletes Division I title in Dayton, Tenn. The Crusaders are one of the four teams invited to play in the National High School Invitational set for April 3-5 at Georgetown Prep.

"We wanted to play some really good competition, and we have some of the nation's best right here," Riverdale Coach Gina Miller said. "When you get recognition locally, then that means a lot more."

One local matchup that never materialized was Riverdale vs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the No. 2 team in the final rankings. The Raiders won a fifth consecutive Maryland 4A championship.

Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Rod Hairston said that there was some discussion with Riverdale -- the schools are about 12 miles apart -- but that there was no playing date that would work for both programs.

When Roosevelt did not get to play its full complement of holiday tournament games, Hairston said he wanted to schedule a game for later in the season.

"They wanted to play early and I didn't have [an open date], and I wanted to play later and they didn't have [an open date]," Hairston said. "I know the kids wanted to play each other, on both sides."

"It just didn't work out to play against each other, even though we would like to have," said Miller, whose team will lose Maryland-bound forward Tianna Hawkins but return its next four leading scorers.

So all the top two finishers have to go on is a series of mostly meaningless fall league games: Riverdale beats Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt beats Paint Branch. Paint Branch beats Riverdale.

"I don't know if they have an unsettled feeling, but for me, I just think it wasn't in the cards," said Hairston, whose top six scorers were seniors. "It's talk for the streets, I guess. Talk for history."

No. 3 H.D. Woodson, the City Title Game champion over Good Counsel, might want a piece of that action. Like Riverdale and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Warriors also were unbeaten against Washington area teams, as was No. 4 Paint Branch, which fell in the Maryland 3A state final to Fallston. As was No. 5 Oakton, which was undefeated until losing in the Virginia AAA championship to Princess Anne. So was No. 6 River Hill, a Maryland 2A finalist.

McNamara Coach Out

McNamara, one of the area's perennial powers, has decided not to retain Coach Rob Surratt, Athletic Director Tony Johnson said yesterday. Surratt guided the Forestville school to a 16-13 mark this season and was 114-43 in five seasons with the Mustangs.

"We're just looking to go in a different direction and to make sure the program continues to grow," Johnson said.

Staff writer Josh Barr contributed to this report.

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