Coach Jonathan Scruggs wanted to force the St. John's College High School girls basketball team to find a way to beat his Elizabeth Seton Roadrunners through anybody besides Lindsay Allen in Sunday's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference semifinal game at American University.
And, for the first 23 minutes, Scruggs was getting his wish. Allen, the WCAC Player of the Year and a University of Notre Dame recruit, had scored just nine points on 10 shots thanks to some stingy defense by Camden Musgrave. The Cadets, the regular season WCAC winners, had consequently failed to open up a comfortable cushion, leading by just six points well into the third quarter.
But then Allen took an outlet pass off a Seton miss, raced past several Roadrunners, pulled up in the lane and made a basket on which she was fouled. She converted the ensuing free throw to put her Cadets up nine, the largest lead held by either team all game, and St. John's would pull away from there, eventually winning 54-40 and advancing to Tuesday's championship with Our Lady of Good Counsel.
“It was tough,” said Musgrave, a junior who has received interest from Georgetown University and Radford, on guarding Allen. “She can go both ways, but other than that, you try to watch her double-moves. And her pull-up jumpers, you can't stop them.”
Allen, whom Musgrave labeled as her most difficult defensive assignment of the year, was relatively quiet throughout, struggling from deep — she converted just one of her eight attempts from the 3-point line — and had a tough time slipping by Musgrave. And, as Scruggs asked for, it wasn't so much Allen that beat the Roadrunners — although she did finish with a game-high 20 points — it was a huge fourth quarter by Amari Carter and an offensive implosion on Seton's part.
Seton led 13-12 after the first quarter on eight points from Musgrave and Janelle Hubbard. The Roadrunners shot 50 percent from the field while St. John's went just 5-for-17. But, over the next 10 minutes, 48 seconds, Seton wouldn't make a single field goal, relying on five free throws to keep the lead from swelling out of reach.
“I think [St. John's] got a little bit more aggressive on the defensive end and I thought that we got a little bit too passive,” Scruggs said. “We got a little tired, the rotation was a little bit shorter today, but we stopped doing some of the things we needed to do to keep the pressure on them.”
Hubbard, bound for Richmond next year, sparked the Roadrunners' offense back to life with a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to trim the lead to four, but it would be all St. John's from there. The Cadets scooped up nearly every loose ball, offensive rebound, and hustle point to be had, while Carter hit four of her five shot attempts from the field, including a dagger of a 3-pointer with 2:19 left to put St. John's up 50-36.
“They're a good team, defensively and offensively,” Hubbard said. “I think we tried to slow down and we got to learn that we can't do that. We got to play hard for 32 minutes, we got to keep playing hard. That's on us.”
St. John's 54, Seton 40
St. John's 12 10 13 19 — 54
Seton 13 3 11 13 — 40
St. John's (29-1; 17-1): Lindsay Allen 20; Amari Carter 14; Tori Oliver 8; Jasmine Bailey 6; Kayla Robbins 5; Sarah Overcash 1.
Seton (19-10; 11-7): Camden Musgrave 11; Janelle Hubbard 9; Erica McIntosh 5; Casey Davis 5; Korin Harris 4; Alexis Lyers 2; Brianna Bush 2; Sierra Applewhite 2.