At some point during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference girls basketball semifinal game between Paul VI and Our Lady of Good Counsel, the premier matchup shifted from the one between the two teams to the one going on between the pair of players wearing No. 12: Good Counsel’s Lindsey Spann and Paul VI’s Ariana Freeman.
Throughout the contest at American University’s Bender Arena, the two would steal the show with highlight reel passes, weaving finishes through traffic, and-one baskets, and a multitude of other impact plays. Ultimately, Spann and the Falcons earned a berth in Tuesday’s WCAC championship with St. John’s College High, which defeated Elizabeth Seton in the previous game, by beating Freeman and the Panthers 55-49.
“With so much Division I-level talent, you’ve got to be a complete team,” Good Counsel coach Tom Splaine said. “And I thought we did a great job making our plays today.”
For a while during the third quarter, the game appeared to be slipping into a rout for the Falcons, not unlike the 81-62 beating Good Counsel laid on Paul VI on Feb. 5. On Saturday, the Falcons authored an 18-7 run in the second quarter to go up 23-14 at the break and came out with back-to-back 3-pointers from Jordan Light and Bernadette Launi to stretch the lead to 15.
And that’s right about when Freeman, a West Virginia University recruit and first-team All-WCAC selection, got her confidence back.
She followed up a pair of baskets from teammates Jonquanae Cole and Marlena Tremba with a layup and then added two more to cut the deficit to 34-30 in a matter of just a few minutes.
“We tried to stop her, but she did very good against us,” said Falcons forward Amanda Fioravanti, who finished with a team-high 16 points. “We struggled.”
But, where Good Counsel struggled in containing Freeman, Paul VI struggled in containing Spann.
The Penn State signee put together a crowd-pleasing second quarter, knifing through the lane for up-and-under layups, throwing no-look passes to teammates for uncontested layups and even tossing one in backwards after absorbing contact and getting the basket-and-one.
But, up until Freeman’s run in the third quarter, Spann had been fairly quiet since. To finish the third, she dished out a nifty no-look pass to Fioravanti, a Virginia recruit, and proceeded to open up the fourth with a steal off an inbounds pass and a coast-to-coast layup.
Then Freeman hit an and-one basket. Then Spann made another layup and followed it up with an assist to Sara Woods. With 4 minutes, 21 seconds remaining, Spann found Fioravanti again for an easy layup and then came down and hit a 3-pointer from the wing. And then it was Freeman with the counter, sandwiching a pair of free throws in between two layups, and the lead was cut back to three.
“She looked like a woman possessed,” Splaine said of Freeman. “I mean, she’s taking threes, knocking them down, no hesitation. We knew it was going to be a tough matchup coming in. It was a tough matchup and we did a really good job against her, especially in the first half.”
Freeman would trim the margin to three again with 38 seconds remaining, but after two Woods’ free throws, she pulled up for a 3-pointer and missed everything, which signaled the end of the Panthers’ comeback bid and the successful advancement for Good Counsel.
“We’re never really satisfied because we know that we can reach higher expectations,” Spann said. “We set high expectations for ourselves so once we play to our potential, we can be great.”
Tuesday’s championship between St. John’s and Good Counsel features another intriguing matchup, this one being between Lindsay Allen and Spann, two of the premier guards in the conference and both Division-I bound.
“Playing another championship against them,” Spann said. “So it will be a fun night.”
Good Counsel 55, Paul VI 49
Good Counsel 5 18 14 18 — 55
Paul VI 7 7 19 16 — 49
Good Counsel (25-4; 16-3): Amanda Fioravanti 16; Sara Woods 12; Lindsey Spann 11; Nicole Enabosi 9; Jordan Light 4; Bernadette Launi 3.
Paul VI (26-4; 15-3): Ariana Freeman 22; Jasmine Whitney 9; Marlena Tremba 8; Lindsay Oblitey 6; Kayla Meador 2; Jonquanae Cole 2.