Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo stopped just short of the ladder and struck a pose — scissors in hand, a big smile — for the gaggle of assembled cameras.
The senior forward was the first St. John’s player to cut the net at Entertainment and Sports Arena on Sunday following the Cadets’ dominant 63-38 win over Georgetown Visitation in the D.C. State Athletic Association Class AA tournament championship game.
It was another season of flashing cameras and cutting nets for the No. 1 Cadets (35-1), who won every possible postseason title for the third straight year. On Monday, they held off No. 2 Bishop McNamara to win the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title, adding the tournament championship to their regular season crown. Sunday’s DCSAA victory felt like the after-party, a celebration of everything that made this year’s team great.
“Just an unbelievable group,” Coach Jonathan Scribner said as he watched his players climb the ladder. “There are going to be a lot of tears in that locker room.”
This is the Cadets’ fourth straight DCSAA title and their fifth in the past six years. They played all of those title games against the Cubs, the long-standing champions of the Independent School League. St. John’s guard Azzi Fudd proved too much for No. 7 Visitation (28-4) on Sunday, scoring 38 points in her sophomore season finale.
“Everything’s effortless,” Cubs Coach Mike McCarthy said of Fudd. “It’s almost like a LeBron [James] in high school in a way. We thought we had a good game plan, but when she plays like that, the game plan fizzles away real quick.”
Tshitenge-Mutombo added 13 points for the Cadets, who led for the entirety of the game and pulled away in the third quarter. The University of North Carolina signee is one of three senior starters, joining guards Carly Rivera and Alex Cowan, who played key roles for the Cadets over the past four years. This season, their comfort with one another was a major strength.
“Playing with your best friends, you know their weaknesses, their strong points, their whole exact game,” Tshitenge-Mutombo said. “It just makes everything easier.”
As the final buzzer sounded Sunday, the three of them joined Fudd in a long group hug.
“It’s very emotional,” Scribner said. “And it’s very scary to think about life without them. I’ve just been very blessed to have been a part of their ride.”
In the first DCSAA Class A tournament, Eastern took home the girls’ title with a 46-41 win over Banneker. The ninth-seeded Ramblers, out of the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association, stormed through the bracket, upsetting the first, second and fourth seeds en route to the championship.
Junior forward Grady Ja’Pria led the way with 18 points, and junior guard Janiah Williams added 14.