Chants of "Over-rated!" went up from the home bleachers, fans stormed the court at the buzzer and Riverdale Baptist players bounded about whooping and hugging anyone in sight after the fifth-ranked Crusaders' emphatic 79-55 home win Thursday night over No. 1 St. John's in a game pitting the area's top-ranked team from the last two seasons against the current top-ranked team.
The Crusaders, an independent team seldom scheduled by other area powers and even more rarely involved in such games on their home floor, treated the matchup like a quasi-city championship, which for them it sort of was.
The team that travels to tournaments in Arizona, Florida, New York and elsewhere did everything but clip the nets after humbling the opponent they feel horned in on their No. 1 perch.
"To get our No. 1 spot taken by somebody we'd never played before, we really wanted to get our spot back," said Riverdale junior Jennie Simms, who helped control the inside with 11 points and 12 rebounds. "We're supposed to be the best around the DMV."
Some 15 minutes after the game, Riverdale senior guard Tyonna Williams, who scored 11 of her team's first 16 points to spur a sizable early lead that proved insurmountable, was screaming with vocal cord-shredding tones as she finally completed her victory lap around the gym and made her way into the locker room.
"There's no words to describe it," she said. "It's unbelievable. I could cry right now. We wanted it so bad, man. We wanted it so bad."
The Crusaders (23-4) had St. John's on its heels from the outset, taking a 12-3 lead. The Cadets (22-2), who committed six turnovers before forcing one, managed only five field goals in 23 attempts in the first half but cashed in on 17 of 22 foul shots to stay within 11 points headed into the second half. Riverdale got 13 points from its bench in the first two quarters.
"I could definitely sense [the Cadets' frustration], and that's exactly what we wanted," said Williams, who scored a game-high 24 points. Junior guard Mooriah Rowser led St. John's with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Riverdale senior guard Lauren Chase scored eight points on drives to the basket within a few minutes late in the third quarter to run the lead to 17. It later swelled to 28.
The game marked the second loss in three games for St. John's, which fell last Friday to No. 4 Holy Cross by one point.
Riverdale had to haul in extra bleachers for the game, and they were filled. The Crusaders' only local loss this season was to No. 2 Spalding, 69-58, on Dec. 10.
"Half the kids couldn't sleep last night in anticipation of this game," Riverdale Coach Diane Richardson said. "They stayed within the safe [emotional] range and took it out on the basketball court."
"It's such a big deal because everyone in the DMV area is coming down to watch us and we rarely get a chance to play in front of all of our families, all of our cousins and grandmothers," Chase said. "It's really special for us winning on our home court."
|RIVERDALE BAPTIST||ST. JOHN'S|