NEW YORK – Miami (Fla.) Country Day ruled the day.
The Spartans used a dominant second-quarter showing to knock off top-seeded Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), 57-41, Saturday morning in Madison Square Garden to capture the DICK'S Sporting Goods High School Nationals championship.
It was the second meeting between the schools that are located in adjoining counties in south Florida. Dillard won 66-62 on Jan. 17. Obviously there was far more at stake on Saturday at the World's Most Famous Arena.
"Last time we played them [Dillard], we had 25 turnovers and were killed on the glass. After watching that previous game last night in preparation I thought if we take care of the basketball and rebound we could win by 15 points. Today we won by 16," MCD coach Ochiel Swaby.
"I was a little surprised they extended the defense fullcourt. The last time Dillard met us at halfcourt. It definitely helped playing on an NBA court here at Madison Square Garden because it's a bigger court and we were able to identify the traps and get open looks for our players," he said.
MCD, which won the Florida Class 3A state title, will carry a 12-game winning streak into next season. The Spartans finished 32-2 and a national tournament championship and ranking and became the Florida girls' team to win the tournament, joining Dr. Phillips (Orlando), which won it in and 2011 and ‘13.
Last year, Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) won the title in a rout.
Dillard, the Class 5A champions, split its two games at the Dick's National and concluded 31-2.
Additionally bragging rights were on the line.
"They [Dillard] said they were No. 1 because of the first meeting and winning their state championship," senior Michelle Berry said.
The Spartans clung to a one-point lead through one quarter and then buried the Lady Panthers from the perimeter. A 20-8 run in the second boosted MCD's lead to 34-21 at the intermission.
With 3:22 left, Dillard burned its last timeout but still trailed by 15 points, 52-37. That signaled a countdown to the championship for the Miami private school.
Berry, who signed with Cal State Fullerton, scored a team-high 13 points and ripped down 10 rebounds and 6-2 Anyagaligbo had 11 points (on 5 of 9 shooting), 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.
Anyagaligbo earned the tournament's Most Valuable Player honors.
"We wanted this rematch; we wanted to prove we're the better team," said Anyagaligbo, who will attend Stony Brook University in the fall.
Dillard's Jamesha Paul scored 7 of her team-high 12 points in the first quarter and cleared 6 rebounds. Jacaira Allen wound up with 11 points and 6 rebounds. The Lady Panthers shot 27.8% from the floor (15 of 54) and only 3 of 17 (17.6%) from downtown. MCD found success on the perimeter from the opening tap. After beating Dillard's press, the Spartans had plenty of space to hoist threes, building a 14-point cushion with 3 1/2 to go in the first half.
MCD shot 60.9% from the field on 14 of 23 shooting and made 4 threes on 11 attempts. Dillard threw the ball away 12 times and made only 8 of 25 shots (32%).
Sophomore guard Channise Lewis (7 points) drilled a 3 with 4:15 left and suddenly MCD went up 26-15.
The Spartans expanded their lead to six points when Alvarez canned a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 19-13. That's a far cry from the semifinals when the freshman guard went scoreless.
Miami took a 14-13 after one period. Maria Alvarez's long 3-pointer with 45 seconds left gave the Spartans the lead. Paul fueled Dillard's scoreline with 7.
"We wanted to get them back after they beat us last time," said Kelsey Marshall, who scored 6 points and had 28 in the semifinal win over Gonzaga Prep (Spokane, Wash.).
The all-tournament team was Anyagaligbo and Marshall of Miami Country Day; Destiny Frazier of Dillard; Otiona Gildon of Gonzaga Prep; and Brianna Fraser of South Shore (Brooklyn, N.Y.).
– Christopher Lawlor reporting