Azzi Fudd emerged from the chaos of defensive pressure and burst into the frontcourt alone.
With her team leading No. 2 Bishop McNamara by four with under a minute left Saturday, a layup would seal the outcome and hand No. 1 St. John’s another victory over the Mustangs.
McNamara, hungry for an upset, had pressured the Cadets all game. But now, in the final moments, the best player on the floor had no one near her as she streaked past the raucous student section and laid the ball in.
St. John’s would go on to win, 64-58, holding off McNamara in another tight meeting of the area’s best teams.
“I had confidence that we were going to keep our lead, but that layup was like: ‘Yes, it’s over. We got this,’ ” Fudd said.
The teams met Jan. 22 with roles reversed. McNamara led the local and national polls, and St. John’s had to enter a hostile gym and swipe an upset. It did just that, earning a 67-65 overtime victory in Forestville. In Saturday’s rematch in Northwest Washington, the Cadets welcomed a capacity crowd of their own and fed off its energy late to complete the season sweep.
With the score tied at 55 and just under two minutes remaining, the Cadets held on to the ball against the Mustangs’ tenacious full-court pressure long enough to draw fouls and sink free throws. Fudd’s layup was the exclamation point on their methodical finish.
“Our girls’ poise down the stretch has been the difference for us all year,” St. John’s Coach Jonathan Scribner said.
Fudd led the Cadets (25-1, 14-0 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) with 28 points, scoring all of her team’s points in the second quarter and holding McDonald’s all-American Jakia Brown-Turner to 11. Fudd’s team also got a lift from junior forward Kelis Corley, who scored eight points off the bench in the first quarter, and senior guard Alex Cowan, who earned some tough points late and finished with 10.
Senior guard Aliyah Matharu, who scored 29 for McNamara (23-2, 12-2) in the previous meeting, continued to give St. John’s problems Saturday and led the Mustangs with 18 points.
Fans seeking more of the drama that played out last month were not disappointed. Doors for the 2 p.m. start opened at noon, and the wooden bleachers at St. John’s filled up well over an hour before the opening tip. Both teams set a fast tone in the first quarter, trading buckets to the delight of the crowd.
“It’s exciting. It gets everything going,” Cowan said of the atmosphere. “It gets your energy pumped up. It’s a fun rivalry for the DMV.”