St. John's 44
There have been the distractions of losing their coach to suspension a week ago, the hype of being the area's most-talented team that has failed to deliver in the conference championship the past two seasons and the whispers that its players' confidence is arrogance.
But No. 1 Bishop McNamara never succumbed to the pressure, claiming its first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship with a 64-44 victory over defending champion St. John's last night at Bender Arena.
As the program's architect -- Coach Michael Bozeman -- watched from the stands, the Mustangs completely dominated their opponent, holding the fifth-ranked Cadets to their lowest point total of the season in extending their winning streak to 20 games.
Junior forward Antelia Parrish scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds to pace McNamara, which advanced to play the District's public school champion in the March 7 City Title Game.
St. John's, last season's City Title winners who entered with a 12-game winning streak, fell to 25-3 -- all three losses courtesy of McNamara.
"That's what we had to do to quiet our critics," senior forward Kalika France said. "It feels great. It's been a long road to this since my freshman year when we had trouble winning a conference game. But now we have players who want to learn and get better and have a desire for the game."
McNamara (27-5) was playing without Bozeman, who was disciplined last week after violating conference scheduling rules. After his arrival four seasons ago, the Mustangs quickly emerged as a team with title aspirations.
The past two seasons, McNamara has been eliminated in the conference semifinals by Elizabeth Seton.
"All I kept thinking about was last season and the Seton game," Parrish said. "We've gone through a lot, and really wanted this as a team. We just tried to play with as much focus as we possibly could and now we're the champions."
Leading by three at halftime, McNamara went on a 13-2 run at the start of the third quarter to take a commanding 42-28 lead. Junior guard Nikki Bozeman -- the coach's daughter -- ignited the spurt with a three-point field goal and Parrish contributed six points, mostly on layups.
"This team was like a train that has a destination," said Bozeman, the coach. "You can flatten the tires and take it off its tracks, but it could not be derailed. . . . It was rewarding because I could see how well they executed."
St. John's junior Ashley Whisonant scored 11 of her 15 points in the first half, which featured four lead changes. Sophomore Marissa Coleman led the Cadets with 18 points.