The most important three possessions of No. 1 Riverdale Baptist’s 74-70 overtime win over Stonewall Jackson didn’t come late in the fourth quarter, nor did they come in the extra session. The Crusaders uncharacteristically started sluggish in the game, and within the first five minutes Riverdale Coach Sam Caldwell called a timeout to pull his team out of the lull. His message was simple: get three consecutive stops on defense.

That timeout was likely the pivotal moment of the game, according to star guard Chloe Jackson, because Riverdale came out of the break and harnessed its jitters to get three straight stops. Riverdale led by four after the first eight minutes, and Jackson and Chania Ray combined for 44 points in the win.

“We had to win it on the defensive end first,” said Jackson, who finished with 23 points. “We had enough conditioning and strength to like, to come out and turn it on and win it in the fourth quarter.”

In holding off the then-No. 16 Raiders, Riverdale Baptist (10-2) had to overcome 25 points from returning All-Met center Nicole Floyd – but the Crusaders’ offensive production jumped dramatically in the fourth quarter and overtime period. The Crusaders scored a combined 31 points in those two frames, putting together one of their best late-game performances of the season. It was a given that Floyd was going to get her points, said Ray, so the defensive pressure honed in on limiting Stonewall Jackson’s guards.

“In the second half we came out with more defensive intensity, which helped us pick up our offense,” Ray said.

The top plays from the week of basketball in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

Ray, who finished with 21 points and hit 10 of 11 from the free throw line, said that the last month has left her “exhausted.” The Crusaders have played one of the most exotic schedules in the area, including a game against the Australian National Team and three games against out of state teams at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix. Riverdale will meet Bullis (5-7) Tuesday before a week off from games. The next month will bring plenty of challenges, including matchups against Capitol Christian, Anacostia and Damascus.

“We’re trained and fit enough to do it,” Ray said. “If our coach didn’t prepare us, I think it would be more exhausting.”

Britt puts on free throw clinic for Tigers

Holy Child senior guard Talley Britt hit all 18 of her free throw attempts in a win over Bishop Ireton on Friday, an accomplishment that her coach, Jaimie Ready, called “the most impressive stat that I’ve had for a player.”

Friday’s clinic ended a short drought at the free throw line for Britt, who in the previous two games had hit only one of four – but she has undoubtedly been a model of consistency on the offensive end for the Tigers (11-3), who have won seven straight and are currently atop the Independent School League A division standings with a 5-1 league record. Britt is averaging a team-high 13.3 points per game, and her 25 against Bishop Ireton were a season high. It came a day after she posted 16 points and seven boards in a win over Maret.

Holy Child is playing with six freshmen and two sophomores, but has formed a solid foundation behind strong guard play. That includes the emergence of sophomore Lilly Paro, who has scored in double-figures in three of her last four games and has connected on 20 three-pointers this season.

The seven-game win streak has been highlighted by quality wins over Churchill and Mercy (Balt.), two victories that came by a combined seven points. Britt combined for 40 points and eight rebounds in the wins. Playing with such a young roster — Britt is only one of three seniors and the only captain — has been an entirely new venture for the 5-foot-3 guard, but the basketball is as good as it has ever been in her time at the school. The team has a number of gifted outside shooters, and the younger players are approaching practice with a focus that suggests they are far beyond their years, Britt said.

“It’s not different in a bad way, it’s different in a good way,” Britt said. “I think it’s a good thing that we do have a lot of freshmen on our team, because it gives us a new look. I feel like a lot of people doubted us in the beginning, saying that we do have a young team. . . . I feel like we started with a bang and surprised a lot of people.”

Eagles maintain play despite layoff

National Cathedral played its first game in 22 days last week, defeating Holton-Arms 55-38, followed by a 31-point win over Flint Hill two nights later. Those two wins will bridge the gap to another layover for the Eagles, who will be off this week due to final exams.

National Cathedral (6-1, 5-0) has won six straight games and currently has the best record in the Independent School League’s AA division, which the Eagles joined after winning the ISL A last winter. Since a season-opening loss to No. 6 Elizabeth Seton, NCS has rarely been tested and is averaging 68.3 points per game while holding opponents to 32.8 during its winning streak.

Junior guard Marta Sniezek continues to be one of the area’s most productive scorers, averaging 29.7 points per game a year after she averaged 28 per contest. She has been complemented by sophomore forward Isabelle Alarie, who is averaging 13 points per game and had a season-best 27 points in the win over Flint Hill Friday.

The catalyst for the strong start was the season-opening loss to Elizabeth Seton, according to Coach Brittany Mitch, who said the matchup against the Roadrunners made her a “little bit nervous.” But the Eagles put themselves in a position to win the game. Sniezek battled against one of the WCAC’s best players in Camden Musgrave, finishing with a game-high 29 points in a 65-52 loss. That was the litmus test for the new season in a new conference, and will serve the Eagles well as they head into matchups against Bullis and Georgetown Visitation following the layoff this week.

“Ever since [the Elizabeth Seton game], even though we lost, it was a good confidence booster for us,” Mitch said. “The girls knew they could play with the best in the area.”