With the loss of three of his top four scorers and lead guard from last year, Mount Vernon Coach Courtney Coffer wasn’t quite sure where his team would be this season.
But then in August, guard DJ JeanPierre transferred in from Alabama and has seamlessly fit into the Majors’ program.
In Friday’s matchup with No. 14 Calvert in the semifinals of the IAABO Christmas Tournament at Largo, JeanPierre was fouled with the Majors ahead by one point with 17 seconds left. The senior guard missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Mount Vernon forced a turnover and JeanPierre was fouled again, giving her a chance to right her previous miss.
JeanPierre sank both free throws, securing for Mount Vernon a 62-59 win against the Cavaliers. The Majors will face No. 5 Eleanor Roosevelt in the final Saturday at 8 p.m.
“ ‘DJ, make this free throw.’ That’s the only thing I was thinking,” JeanPierre said. “I just had to hit the free throws.”
JeanPierre scored a season-high 23 points, 15 in the first half, after she was quickly forced to turn from facilitator to scorer with forward Samantha Porter picking up two fouls with 4 minutes 47 seconds left in the first quarter.
Without Porter for the majority of the half, the Majors hung tough and closed the half on a 9-2 run to knot the game at 34 at intermission.
Mount Vernon was also without sophomore Deja King, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament earlier this week.
“We were down a body because one of our teammates got hurt, so I knew I had to step up and pick it up early,” JeanPierre said.
The Majors (5-1) trailed by seven points in the third quarter, but sharpshooting guard Chanel Shannon provided a major boost off the bench, and the Majors cut the deficit to two entering the fourth.
Usually a starter, Shannon (13 points) adjusted to her role as sixth woman well by knocking down four three-pointers, including the initial basket of the fourth quarter to give the Majors their first lead of the second half at 47-46.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Shannon said of her move to the bench. “I’m going to do what I need to do, regardless whether I’m starting or coming off the bench.”
Senior Daijha Thomas scored 20 of her game-high 28 points in the first half for Calvert (6-2) and was fighting for space with Porter much of the second half. Porter finished with 11 points on the night in limited minutes.
The Majors shot 17 for 22 from the free throw line, and Jean-Pierre was 9 for 11. Coffer said JeanPierre’s unexpected arrival to the program has been smooth, and the ultra-confident guard has helped the Majors to a five-game winning streak.
“It was a huge blessing for her to enroll here,” Coffer said. “From the first day she came and worked out it was like a family and like she had been here for years. That’s why everything is running so smoothly now.”