As talented as the top four girls' teams in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference are this season, the league tournament seeds meant little. They were just necessary numbers to determine who would play whom in the various rounds.
So it did not come as a huge surprise last night in the WCAC semifinals when fourth-seeded St. John's knocked off two-time defending champion Good Counsel, the top seed, 72-53, or when third-seeded Holy Cross staved off second seed Bishop McNamara for a hard-fought 55-50 victory, both at Gonzaga.
In the first game, St. John's guards Taneisha Harrison and Katherine DeHenzel combined for 39 points for the 19th-ranked Cadets, who had lost twice in the span of three days against Good Counsel a little more than a week ago.
In the second semi, 12th-ranked Holy Cross cruised to a 23-point lead early in the second half before sixth-ranked McNamara reeled off 20 unanswered points to make it tight. Thereafter, the cushion wavered between three and nine points.
Holy Cross had lost to the other three semifinalists in the last five games of the regular season, so last night's win certainly was worth talking about, had Holy Cross Coach Russell Davis, and his players, he said, not taken a "vow of silence" until after the WCAC championship.
Davis seemed plenty chatty during the game and in greeting well-wishers afterward but twice declined further comment on the victory.
In building their 32-13 halftime lead, the Tartans (23-5) made 13 of 20 field goal attempts while McNamara (22-8) misfired on 22 of 25 shots and 11 of 17 free throws.
Junior guard Shontice Simmons led Holy Cross with 17 points -- 14 of them in the first half -- and senior Monica McNutt cashed in on several free throws late to nurse the Tartans' lead. Junior forward Kala Nwachukwu led Bishop McNamara with 21 points -- 16 in the second half -- and 11 rebounds.
To beat Good Counsel, St. John's knew it needed to do a better job on Falcons junior forward Shanel Harrison, who had hurt them in both losses. With a player assigned to Harrison all game, often junior substitute Caroline Lalley, the Cadets (20-9) limited Harrison last night to 10 points, on 3-of-13 shooting. Senior forward Claire Wheeler led the Falcons (23-7) with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
"We came into this realizing that basically this is a brand-new season," St. John's senior forward Dominique Bryant said. "We needed to win three games to take it home, and everybody on the team wants this so bad. I think it's showing."
St. John's trailed by eight in the second quarter but scored the final six points of the period. The Cadets then put together a 28-point third quarter, playing in late February like they expected to play all season, had injuries not hampered them early.
"This is definitely the team I thought we would be from the beginning," said St. John's Coach Eddie Simpson, whose team is vying for its first WCAC title since 2004.
Falcons Not Done:Good Counsel will compete next week in the Bishop Walsh tournament. The Falcons had won 15 of their last 16 before last night.
Up Next:St. John's and Holy Cross will meet in the WCAC championship at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at Gallaudet.