Two days after the top-ranked Bishop McNamara girls' basketball team won its first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament title, several Mustangs players sat in the stands at Georgetown University last Wednesday night watching a team familiar with winning championships.
Nikki Bozeman, Iman McFarland, Antelia Parrish and Chauntise Wright attended Connecticut's 97-57 victory over Georgetown on Feb. 26. The win pushed the Huskies' winning streak to 66 games, the longest in women's college basketball history.
"They're the best team in women's basketball," Parrish said. "U-Conn.'s players know what it takes to win -- they've proven that because they've won championships."
Connecticut has won three national titles -- two in the past three seasons -- and will serve as the inspiration for McNamara (31-5), which makes its first appearance in the City Title game at 6:30 p.m. Friday against H.D. Woodson (18-8). The Warriors, champions of the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association, and Mustangs will meet at George Washington University's Smith Center.
H.D. Woodson handed Theodore Roosevelt its first loss of the season, 54-53, in Saturday's tournament title game to win its 17th DCIAA title. The Warriors have played in the City Title game eight previous times, winning the championship in 1990 and '92.
"I was surprised to hear that H.D. Woodson won, but any time you play in a championship game, you are going to play a good team," McFarland said. "We can't worry about who we are playing. We just have to be concerned about winning the City Title."
McNamara and H.D. Woodson have taken different paths to Friday's game. Though the Mustangs have four losses, all came in out-of-area tournaments against some of the nation's best teams. They have had little or no trouble against local competition, rolling to double-digit victories in 18 of 19 games against WCAC competition.
Meantime, H.D. Woodson had lost five of six games against teams ranked by The Post before its victory Saturday against then-No. 2 Theodore Roosevelt. The Warriors were 9-8 earlier this season but since have won nine games in a row.
"I think we have more experience playing against good teams because there are not many teams out there that play the best teams in the country like we do," McNamara Coach Mike Bozeman said. "Our schedule helps make us the best team we can be."
McNamara combines a potent offense -- the Mustangs average an area-best 75 points per game -- with a stifling defense that has held opponents to 43.2 points per game. The Warriors have been similarly effective on defense, yielding 44.3 points per game.
Moreover, neither team relies on one player to carry the scoring burden. H.D. Woodson boasts five players who average at least seven points per game, led by junior guard Charli Jackson (12.75 points) and senior forward Jameka White (11.1). McNamara counters by having four players who average at least nine points per game, led by senior forward Kalika France (12.1) and Parrish (11.5).
"McNamara has the best talent of any team in the area, and they will probably have the best talent for the next two or three years, but anything can happen in one game," H.D. Woodson Coach Bob Headen said. "We're going in with the mind-set that we can win. People counted us out when we played Theodore Roosevelt because they hadn't lost a game all year, and it shows you that in one game, anything can happen."
The WCAC final was played Feb. 24, but the Mustangs haven't been idle since. They won the prestigious Bishop Walsh tournament this past weekend in Cumberland, Md., with an 86-64 victory over St. John's in the championship game.
McNamara has continued to win despite facing adversity during the past month. Bozeman was banned from having any contact with his players for the remainder of the season -- starting with the WCAC tournament -- because the Mustangs violated league rules by playing too many regular season games. Robert Surratt, who has spent the past three years as Bozeman's assistant, has been the team's acting coach.
"We've been through so much as a team, and it's been tough not having Coach Bozeman there because he means so much to our team," France said. "But we've always believed that we would win the WCAC tournament and the City Title game, and now it's up to us to prove who the best team in the area is."