The 17th-ranked Paul VI Catholic girls’ basketball team won its sixth consecutive Virginia Independent School championship over the weekend, this time with a little more ease than in previous years. Even more encouraging for the Panthers is that they had no seniors on the 23-10 team that tied a school record for wins.
Paul VI finished fourth in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and lost to Good Counsel in the league semifinals. But the state tournament is the major event for most independent schools in Virginia.
“The WCAC is the cream of the crop, and that’s the ultimate prize, but the state independent school tournament is really important to us,” Paul VI Coach Scott Allen said. “Any time you can win a state championship and close out the season with a win, it provides a lot of momentum and a smile on your face when the season is over.”
With its defense and depth, the Panthers dispatched St. Anne’s-Belfield, Flint Hill and Liberty Christian by a total of 78 points, to win a state-record sixth straight title.
Paul VI sophomore forward Ariana Freeman was named tournament most valuable player. She topped 25 points in all three games and averaged 12 rebounds. Junior guard Marlena Tremba, another all-tournament team pick, made seven three-pointers in the 67-45 championship win over Liberty Christian at Benedictine High in Richmond. Junior point guard Lauren Cox also made the all-tournament team.
Not losing any seniors has raised expectations for next season; Freeman and Tremba were first-team all-WCAC picks. But the Panthers have not reached a WCAC final since the league formed in 1994.
“Our kids are the type of kids very driven to get better,” Allen said. “We know we had a great year, but the ultimate goal is to win the WCAC.”