WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the current Blue Star Media Elite 25 Girls’ Poll, just one conference in the entire country features two of the Top five teams, and that is the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. On Sunday afternoon, in front of a packed house at American University’s Bender Arena, both of those teams were in action in the Semi-Finals, as Paul VI (No. 2) and St. John’s College (No. 5) each had a big hurdle to climb to set up a championship showdown rubber match.
In a conference loaded with talent, just making it to the final four is quite an accomplishment. Elizabeth Seton and Good Counsel both came in hungry and looking to knock off their ranked and highly regarded rivals. One thing all four teams have in common is a depth of talent, not only among those upperclassmen well on their way to play college basketball, but in the future down the roster as well.
In the highly anticipated opening semi-final match-up, St. John’s College faced off against a veteran, athletic Elizabeth Seton squad. Despite being a little short-handed, Coach Scruggs’ Seton squad showed a ton of fight behind seniors Camryn Johnson (Louisiana-Monroe) and Adrianne Hagood (Sacred Heart). Johnson was a steady hand at the point, and drove her way to some big buckets down the stretch. Hagood slashed her way through the Cadets’ 1-3-1 zone for some nice lay ins and, when the defense gave her space, she hit the three. In the closing minute of the game, she stepped to the line down three and went 2 for 2 keeping her team in the fight. It was St. John’s College however who held on for the 64-59 win, behind the play of Virginia Tech-bound senior Aisha Sheppard, who once again showed off her shot creativity at all levels. The skill and athleticism of junior Jaylin Carodine and super sophomore Malu Charlotte Tshitenge-Mutumbo were also instrumental in punching their ticket to the finals.
If the first semi had big names on the rosters, then it’s safe to say that the Paul VI-Good Counsel match up was equally star-studded. WCAC Player of the Year Mikayla Vaughn (Notre Dame) is flanked in the lineup by junior standout forward Amira Collins, sharp shooting Kate Klimkiewicz, fellow 2018 classmate Honesty Scott-Grayson, and powerful sophomore playmaker Ashley Owusu. Collins had an impact game on the boards, scored inside but also demonstrated her stroke at the line and from long distance. Owusu’s scoring ability was quietly on display, quiet only because she had some highlight reel assists that really had the crowd going. Good Counsel countered with its own star power, led by established sophomore point guard Chloe Chapman, scoring guard Lindsey Pulliam (Northwestern), and a big inside presence with seniors Cara Judkins (Pittsburgh) and Breonna Mayfield (Georgetown). Chapman in particular was impressive, showing off her jets with the ball in transition that led to points and assists, but showed off the knowledge and body control to pull it out and run offense when nothing is there. Good Counsel was also able to score some points off turnovers in the second quarter, but PVI took a 40-25 lead into the locker room at half and never looked back. The final score was a convincing 80-42, and it was clear the Panthers were primed and ready for a high profile championship match-up.
Monday night St. John’s College and Paul VI, who split two games earlier in the regular season, stood toe to toe to settle things once and for all. This time it was St. John’s who was left standing holding on for a 58-52 victory and denying the Panthers a fourth consecutive crown. A one point lead for St. John’s became a three-point deficit at the half before Aisha Shephard went to work. Posting just eight of her game high 24 points in the first half, she erupted for 16 over the final two periods to help SJC claim the coveted hardware. Cadet playmaker Niya Beverley, who was injured in the opening moments of the Seton game was unavailable for action but Shephard and her teammates saw to it that she still had plenty to celebrate. Once again, the WCAC Tournament provided some national level excitement as well as a stage for some college basketball’s future talent.
Beyond all the marquee names mentioned above, here are some additional prospects we look forward to hearing more from in WCAC action in seasons to come.
Randi Baldwin – 2020 – 5-11 – Forward – Elizabeth Seton – Real jets on the rim run…Athlete with some big hops…Already blocking some shots
Aurea Gingras – 2020 – 5-8 – Point Guard – Paul VI – Freshman floor general impressed once again…Scrappy, smart two-way player…Pesky at the top of the press…Nice buzzer beater floater to end a quarter…Also hit the three
Tyler Gray – 2020 – 5-6 – Point Guard – Elizabeth Seton – Young point guard…Showed flashes of a bright future…Really pounds the ball into the floor at times…Showed off a nice floater…Didn’t play like a freshman on a big postseason stage
Madison Hardy – 2018 – 5-8 – Guard – Good Counsel – Aside from a couple turnovers, played a nice game…Likes to shoot the three, especially off the bounce…Played hard buzzer to buzzer regardless of the score
Jayla James – 2019 – 5-11 – Forward – Paul VI – Provided good minutes off the bench…Showed growth in both skills and understanding of the game…Impact rebounder potential…Can start the break and take it on her own in transition…Hit the three as well
Carlyn Rivera – 2019 – 5-4 – Point Guard – St. John’s College – Young point guard…Has gained valuable experience playing the bulk of the minutes at her position…Gritty player…Will get on the floor and defend with tenacity…Crafty drive and finish
Rayne Tucker – 2019 – 6-1 – Forward – Good Counsel – Easy to love her athleticism and physical ability…Really pursues the ball on rebounds…Active in the passing lanes…Versatile offensive ability is there and beginning to exhibit itself…Still best suited for the #4 spot
Sydney Wood – 2018 – 5-11 – Guard/Forward – St. John’s College – Improvement over the course of the season showed…Hit the offensive boards hard off the bench…Nice up and under move for a big bucket at one point