It was that time. Up 29 with one minute left in the D.C. State Athletic Association final, No. 1 St. John’s made two substitutions. What would be a 65-40 victory over Georgetown Visitation, its fourth title in five years, was the last game of a dominant 32-2 season, and it was time for some sideline hugs.
Forward Sydney Wood came out first, and guard Asha Scott followed. Coach Jonathan Scribner waited with open arms. For a team that entered the season with a target on its back, burdened with the expectation and pressure to win every time it took the court, one of the feelings that pervaded the sideline at that moment had to be relief. The season was over, and just about everything had gone right.
“There’s just no better feeling in the world,” Scribner said as his team celebrated around him, one player wearing the DCSAA champs banner like a cape. “This is what you do it for.”
Saturday’s rout of No. 7 Visitation at George Washington’s Smith Center marked the end of a week that began with a victory over Paul VI in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament championship. That was the Cadets’ second straight conference title, and the DCSAA victory is their fourth in five years.
“This team will be remembered for how close we were,” Wood said. “Nothing really on the basketball court is going to stand out. What’s going to stand out to me is what happened off the court.”
Wood missed about half of conference play with an injury and returned to help the Cadets win their two tournaments. On Saturday, she looked well removed from that injury as she drove the left side of the lane in the third quarter. On a dime, she stopped, pivoted and slid between two defenders. She drew the foul and flipped the ball up and in.
“Good pivot!” a basketball purist in the crowd yelled.
Wood finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“She is the cornerstone of our program,” Scribner said of Wood. “A four-year varsity starter. It was really tough when she was out to figure things out.”
Freshman Azzi Fudd took home the tournament’s MVP trophy after scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the championship game. Cadets senior Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo also played an important role in the win, controlling the lane and forcing Visitation forwards Taylor Webster and Ellie Mitchell to settle for jump shots.
“We knew we needed to pick it up with our aggression, and I think we stepped it up defensively,” Fudd said.
Visitation (25-5) stuck to its disciplined, fundamental style and trailed by 13 points at halftime. But the Cadets proved too much to handle throughout the third quarter, showing their Independent School League opponents why and how they had won the area’s toughest conference.
In the fourth, St. John’s grew its lead and did what it had done countless times this season: took the starters out. But this time, at the official end of a near-perfect season, the ovations lasted a little longer than usual.