Bishop McNamara is considered the area's top girls' basketball team in large part because of its cadre of talented young players. But in its 67-60 victory over No. 2 St. John's last night, top-ranked McNamara excelled because of its veterans.
Senior forward Kalika France, junior guard Antelia Parrish and junior center Chauntese Wright made key shots at crucial times as the Mustangs (7-1) won for the third straight time over host St. John's. France also made three free throws in the final minutes to help preserve the lead in both teams' Washington Catholic Athletic Conference opener.
"McNamara did a good job of controlling the tempo in the second half, and putting the ball in the right hands," St. John's Coach Eddie Simpson said. "Kalika took control of the game and began doing the things that we had seen in scouting them."
During a 10-2 run that spanned the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters, France scored five points as the Mustangs tied the game at 19. Later, she connected on a short jumper in the lane to keep the game tied at 29 entering halftime.
Parrish took over in the third quarter, giving McNamara its first lead of the game at 37-34 by sinking two free throws. The Mustangs took their largest lead at 53-43 during a 16-2 spurt, in which Wright and France combined for 12 points.
"I'm not going to take anything away from our young players, because they are still learning," said France, who finished with a game-high 23 points, 7 rebounds and 1 blocked shot. "When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, that's when the veteran players like myself have got to step up."
When St. John's (4-1) managed to cut the deficit to 58-54 with three minutes remaining, the Maryland-bound France blocked a shot that was converted into a layup by Wright. On the next possession, France stole the ball, was fouled and converted 1 of 2 free throws to stretch McNamara's lead to 61-56 with less than a minute remaining.
"She is a warrior," McNamara Coach Michael Bozeman said. "That is who she is to our team. Kalika was the first one here and has been a part of the building process to where we are today."
Crusaders Spread It Out
Though the presence of junior point guard Wanisha Smith lured a half-dozen college recruiters to fifth-ranked Riverdale Baptist's game against 12th-ranked Woodbridge, the Crusaders showed they have more than one star player in a 48-39 victory in Upper Marlboro.
Smith, who was an Associated Press Division I player of the year in Ohio last season as a sophomore at Fairfield High, scored a game-high 17 points, and sophomore guard Pam Stansfield added a career-high 15 points as Riverdale Baptist handed the Vikings (4-1) their first loss of the season.
Riverdale Baptist (5-3) forced 17 turnovers, held the Vikings to one field goal for a 7-minute, 5-second stretch during the second half and limited Woodbridge senior forward Whitney Allen, who will play for George Washington next year, to six points.
"I think our defense was the difference," said Smith, who transferred after touring the school last summer while visiting relatives. "We came out there wanting to force turnovers and force them into taking bad shots."
And that's exactly what the Crusaders did to the defending Virginia AAA Northwestern Region champions. After Woodbridge senior guard April Henderson's jump shot brought the Vikings to within 31-25 with 3 minutes 5 seconds left in the third quarter, Riverdale Baptist went on a 9-1 run, allowing the Vikings just one free throw during the stretch.
Allen ended Woodbridge's field goal drought with a layup that made it 40-28 with four minutes left in the game. Though Woodbridge closed the margin to 40-33 with 2:45 remaining, Riverdale Baptist scored the game's next eight points to end any hopes of a comeback.
Woodbridge was led by senior forward Diana Martinez, who scored a team-high 14 points, and Henderson added 12. Riverdale Baptist got a game-high eight rebounds from senior Erica Pollock, with Smith and Stansfield each recording five steals.