McLean School Coach Kerri Sullivan finally had her players gathered after the hugs, the banner presentation and the swarm of congratulatory fans made for a hectic ending to the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference championship on Saturday evening.
So after the last few straggled into the classroom-turned locker room, a few hallways down from the Wootton High School gym, where they had just beaten Washington International, 38-27, Sullivan praised her team.
“You just achieved the ultimate reward,” she told her players.
The Mustangs triumphed in a physical, defensive matchup. They had just secured the school’s first back-to-back championships in girls’ basketball, but Sullivan was most proud of her team ending the season with an undefeated record.
“I’m speechless,” forward Sydney Lewis said. “All season, we were like, we’ve got to win, we’ve got to win, we’ve got to win. . . . So much pressure.”
To beat the Red Devils, the Mustangs knew they’d have to rely on Lewis’s prowess, as they have all season, because top guard Jessica Baskett was playing through an injury.
Lewis didn’t disappoint, repeating as the PVAC tournament’s most valuable player. The sophomore had a game-high 15 points and consistently fended off Washington International’s inside pressure and double teams.
“Everyone knows who she is, and everyone knows that you need to stop her in order to stop us,” Sullivan said. “She gets hung on, and the fact is that she keeps it together and battles through it no matter what.”
Lewis helped pace the Mustangs (22-0) with four points in the first quarter as they overcame a 5-0 deficit with an 8-0 run to close the period. After the Red Devils threatened to erase a double-digit deficit in the third quarter, Lewis buckled down.
She had six of the Mustangs’ final eight points in the game as McLean School earned its third straight victory over Washington International (18-4) since Feb. 6.
“To beat teams once in a year is hard,” Sullivan said. “To beat them twice is even harder. And to beat three great teams three times in a year is really hard.”
As the chants of “undefeated” rang down from the student section and players took the court following the game’s final timeout, the Wildebeests couldn’t contain their excitement.
Some shook each other’s shoulders. Others clapped. All smiled.
Moments later, the final buzzer sounded on Sandy Springs Friends’ 74-64 victory over St. Anselm’s to clinch the school’s second PVAC championship in three years and an undefeated 23-game stretch in league play.
Senior guard Mikey Parker was named tournament MVP after scoring 35 points, while junior forward Jimi Olopade led the Panthers with 23 points.
“I feel like it’s almost as if, ‘How are we ever going to do this again?’ ” Coach Carl Parker said amid a swarm of fans who stormed the court.
“They take everybody’s best shots every game, and . . . it’s no magic, just pure hard work. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”