IAABO final: Rendle powers South Lakes past West Springfield, 42-34

After South Lakes had finished celebrating its 42-34 victory over No. 18 West Springfield in Friday’s IAABO Invitational final, awards officials announced that they had one more spot on the all-tournament team. South Lakes point guard Caitlin Jensen turned to junior forward Abigale Rendle on the bench and started teasing her, knowing that Rendle’s name would be called.

Instead, the whole bench erupted in surprise when Jensen’s name came through the speakers. A few moments later, Rendle’s patience was rewarded when she was handed the most valuable player trophy.

It was that type of night for South Lakes, which used 18 points from Rendle and a couple huge plays from fellow junior Jensen down the stretch to upset the Lady Spartans at Prince George’s Community College.

“It’s always tough when we play West Springfield,” Rendle said. “I feel like I have improved, but I feel like I still have a lot to work on.”

South Lakes (11-1) was in an odd position for the title game, as head coach Christy Winters-Scott was unable to coach the team because of a prior Friday night commitment, leaving the Seahawks’ band of assistants with an opportunity to help the team capture the tournament’s 40th annual championship and cement its place as one of the best in Fairfax County before the New Year. It was also a chance to avenge a 44-43 loss to West Springfield in November.

Rendle’s eight-point first half helped the Seahawks to a 23-16 advantage at intermission, but her ability to misdirect West Springfield’s shots in the lane proved equally vital. The 6-foot-4 forward had three blocks and overcame defensive adjustments made by West Springfield (10-1) in the second half, scoring the first four points of the third quarter and hitting a crowd-quieting 16-footer to begin the fourth, after West Springfield used a quick 5-0 run to pull within 31-28. After Rendle’s jumper, Jensen (nine points) converted a three-point play to make it 36-28, and Rendle hit back-to-back hook shots with under four minutes left to make it 40-30.

“This tournament was a breakout tournament for her,” South Lakes assistant Shelita St. Louis said. “Her confidence is really increased. She has just been a force for us defensively.”

West Springfield, which arrived at the title game by way of blowout wins over Suitland and River Hill, scored just six points in the fourth quarter. It was the lowest offensive out-put of the season for the Spartans, and also the first time no West Springfield player posted double figures in points. Guard Amy Berglund, who entered the night averaging 18.1 points per game, was held to eight points.

“Overall, defensively, as a team we’ve really gelled and worked really hard to play good team defense,” St. Louis said. “Abby came up huge for us.”

Roman Stubbs covers the University of Maryland athletics for The Washington Post.

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