There were 33 spectators in the bleachers when the Paul VI Catholic-St. John's girls' basketball game tipped off yesterday afternoon in the 3,000-plus capacity Gallaudet gym. But it might as well have been a packed house to No. 19 St. John's, which ran off the first 15 points of the game and cruised to a 64-37 victory in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference quarterfinals.
"I told our kids when I knew we were having the 3:15 game to not expect a lot of people there," St. John's Coach Eddie Simpson said. "But it's not about who's there, it's about who we're playing. It's now one [loss] and you're done, and they understand that."
The game was not even five minutes old when the fourth-seeded Cadets (19-9) took that 15-0 lead, thanks in part to two three-pointers by senior Dominique Bryant (14 points, nine rebounds) and two baskets each from freshman Marissa Brock (14 points, tying a season high) and senior guard Katherine DeHenzel (12 points).
Perhaps most pleasing in the win was the performance of the 6-foot-2 Brock, who made all six of her field goal attempts and also altered several shots in the paint.
"I told her that she's the key to us getting to the championship," Simpson said. "She's got to finish and she's got to want to score when she gets the easy layups."
"Early in the season, she wasn't as tough," DeHenzel said. "We needed her on the boards, and she just wasn't getting it done. But she's grown, and she's learned a lot."
St. John's senior Taneisha Harrison added eight points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Fifth-seeded Paul VI made only 3 of 25 field goal attempts in the first half and shot 13 of 66 for the game. The Panthers (16-11) had split two games with St. John's during the regular season, but the Cadets were without Bryant in the mid-December loss.
"They dictated everything that happened" today, said Paul VI Coach Scott Allen, whose team will host a Virginia Independent School state tournament game on Tuesday.
In the second quarterfinal yesterday, No. 8 Good Counsel, the two-time defending league champion and tournament's top seed, prevailed 52-39 over eighth-seeded Bishop Ireton.
The Cardinals (12-17) tried to slow down the game, with moderate success; it was an eight-point game with less than five minutes to play before the Falcons (23-6) locked up their 15th win in the past 16 games. Junior Shanel Harrison scored a career-high 26 points for the second consecutive outing.
Falcons Coach Tom Splaine is not so much surprised by his rebuilt team's success as he is impressed by it. The lone senior is forward Claire Wheeler, and the core of the prior championship teams is gone.
"I knew we had some talent, but making that come together and figuring out how it's all going to jell, you don't know every year if it's going to happen for you," Splaine said. "That's what makes it neat every year."
In later quarterfinals, Kala Nwachukwu scored 10 points and Ebony Edwards added nine as No. 6 Bishop McNamara beat Elizabeth Seton, 42-27. The Mustangs (22-7) advanced to play No. 12 Holy Cross (22-5), which moved on with a 64-38 win over Carroll in the night's final game.
Up Next:St. John's and two-time defending league champion Good Counsel advanced to a WCAC semifinal at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Bender Arena. Good Counsel beat the Cadets in tightly contested regular season games on Feb. 17 and Feb. 19. Bishop McNamara and Holy Cross will meet in the 3 p.m. semifinal.