Nobody knew for sure if a freshman ever scored more than Ronika Ransford's 31 points in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship game. It's safe to say, though, that the H.D. Woodson guard set a single-game record for "oohs," "aahs" and heads shaking in disbelief.
Ransford electrified the approximate 2,500 fans at Coolidge with a dazzling array of spin moves, crossover dribbles and scintillating drives to the basket as she led the seventh-ranked Warriors to an 85-69 victory over No. 13 Theodore Roosevelt for their second straight DCIAA crown and sixth in the past 11 years.
"To be honest, my mind was blank," said Ransford, whose career-high output earned her the game's most valuable player honor. "I just went off instinct."
In the boys' final that followed, Cardozo, which entered the playoffs at 13-7, won an unprecedented fourth straight boys' title with a 54-42 victory over M.M. Washington and, in the process, avenged two overtime losses in the regular season.
The girls' matchup lived up to its billing. The league's two top teams never met in the regular season, as their nonleague matchup Dec. 21 was postponed and later canceled when the teams couldn't agree on a site. Many thought the teams sought to avoid each other, as they each breezed through the league undefeated. After last night, though, it's a wonder why they didn't play more often.
"This is who we wanted to play" in this game, Roosevelt Coach Frank Oliver said. "We didn't want to play anyone else."
Although the result was similar to last year's game, which Woodson won, 70-56, the intensity was unparalleled, as Ransford and senior Tia Bell engaged Roosevelt's Brittany Hilliard and Asyja Smith in an end-to-end shootout that overwhelmed the crowd.
No player, though, captivated the house like Ransford, who started scoring early and didn't stop. She scored six points as the Warriors (23-3) scored 17 of the game's first 20 points and never trailed.
"She has a hunger and a fire that you don't see in too many freshman," Oliver said. "I see it every day in practice."
With 37 seconds left in the first quarter, Hilliard, the Washington area's leading scorer (31.4 points per game) drew her third foul and went to the bench for the rest of the half with Roosevelt down 15 points. Smith, however, took over, and kept the Rough Riders (18-3) close with 22 first-half points, and they went into halftime down 45-40.
Smith finished with 30 points for the Rough Riders and Hilliard had 26.
Bell added 18, Patrice Johnson had 13 and Carleeda Green added 11 for H.D. Woodson, which will play the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion in the City Title game March 5 at Verizon Center.
Cardozo's boys, unheralded at the beginning of the season with little returning experience, frustrated yet another higher-touted opponent with ferocious rebounding and a pesky zone defense. Perhaps it was fitting that 5-foot-2 junior point guard Dominique Aull, who scored a game-high 20 points, was named the game's most valuable player.
"We never gave up on ourselves," said Aull, a varsity rookie. "When it counted the most, we came through."
M.M. Washington started out hot, making three-pointers on each of its first three shots to take a 9-2 lead. But after Andre Mattison's basket with two minutes left in the first quarter, the Yellow Jackets went scoreless for the next 8 minutes 10 seconds, and Cardozo scored 17 straight points to take control of the game.
Revenge: There was a common theme in each game of Cardozo's run to the boys' title -- the Clerks avenged a December defeat to Eastern in the quarterfinals and then knocked off two West Division foes (Dunbar and M.M. Washington) that defeated the Clerks twice apiece in the regular season.
Esteemed guest: Mayor Adrian Fenty was in attendance for both games, watching from the elevated aisle above one of the baselines.