By James Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2011; 1:23 AM
Three years ago at a gym in Germantown, the new head coach of St. John's, Jonathan Scribner, approached a promising eighth-grader named Mooriah Rowser after her AAU basketball game and gave her his pitch.
He wasn't the only high school coach there to see her. But his pitch was appealing: Come to St. John's, develop as a player, be part of a winner. Rowser bought in, and decided to attend the private school in Upper Northwest.
The Cadets have flourished since her arrival, rising from a team that finished barely above .500 three seasons ago to one that claimed its first Abe Pollin City Title since 2002 on Monday night, rallying past H.D. Woodson, 59-44, at Verizon Center.
"It feels good," said Rowser, who finished with a game-high 16 points, eight rebounds and the MVP trophy. "It shows a lot of hard work. It shows a lot of time in the gym. It shows a lot of passion that me and my teammates have."
For the first two quarters, H.D. Woodson (18-12), appearing in its sixth straight City Title game and 12th overall, controlled the tempo. The Warriors used the strong play of junior forward Jephany Brown (15 points and 14 rebounds) and tenacious pressure defense to force St. John's into turnovers. At halftime, H.D. Woodson led 20-18.
The third-ranked Cadets (30-2) outscored the Warriors 17-6 in the third quarter, however, and never looked back.
"Because of our depth, we play a lot of players in the first half," Scribner said. "When we come out in the second half, we're fresh as can be and we typically can force some turnovers and go on a six-, eight-point run."
St. John's players admitted that the big stage affected them, but they quickly rallied in the third quarter, proving why they were among the elite teams in the area with a deep bench. Nine Cadets scored, including standout sophomore guard Lindsay Allen, who hadn't scored at all in the first half but scored 11 points in the final two frames.
"We were overwhelmed with the big arena and the lights and settled in," said senior guard Mariah Jones. "The third quarter has been our quarter all year. We are able to put teams down in the third quarters."
In her time at St. John's, Jones has witnessed the change. As one of three seniors on the team, she saw the team and talent improving to the point that she knew the City Title was within reach.
"Last year, we got all the way to the WCAC championship game but we lost," said Jones, who scored 15 points. "So this year we felt like we could pull through and finish strong."