CUMBERLAND — The fourth time turned out to be the charm for St. John’s.
In a familiar fight to the finish, the Cadets edged Good Counsel 62-59 to win their second straight Bishop Walsh Girls Invitational Saturday night.
It was the fourth meeting of the year between the Washington Catholic League powers. Regular-season and playoff champ Good Counsel (30-4) had won the first three by a total of only 11 points: 81-77, 69-65 and 79-76.
This time, St. John’s (26-8) prevailed and led almost from start to finish, building as much as a 10-point edge. But it all boiled down to the final 20 seconds. The Cadets, up 60-59, got a big defensive stop, two foul shots by Mooriah Rowser, and another stop in the closing seconds to seal the win.
“Our first three games against them boiled down to the last two minutes, too,’’ said St. John’s coach Jonathan Scribner. “The ball didn’t bounce our way the previous games, and tonight it did.
“It’s great to win the last game of the season, and obviously a great honor to defend your title in a great tournament like this one. It really means a lot. I’m proud of all the girls.”
Rowser, the most outstanding player of the championship bracket, had 15 points, was 7-for-7 from the foul line and had nine rebounds. All-tournament Chania Ray added 12 points and six rebounds, Tori Oliver eight points and 11 rebounds and Amari Carter came off the bench for 10 points.
The most valuable player of the championship bracket was Good Counsel’s Amanda Fioravanti, who had 21 points and 16 rebounds, and had a tournament-high 62 points in three games. All-tournament Faith Randolph had 15 points and four assists, and Lindsay Spann 15 points and six assists.
Good Counsel’s only leads were 4-2, 13-12 and 14-12 in the first quarter. Rowser and Ray had eight points during a St. John’s 10-point run that gave the Cadets a 22-14 lead. After the Falcons got to within 25-23 after an intentional foul led to a four-point play by Fioravanti, the Cadets closed the half on a 16-8 spurt that included a three-point play by Rowser and a three-point goal by Elisabeth Parks, at the buzzer, that made it 41-31.
Freshman guard Amani Carter had eight of her 10 points in the first half for St. John’s, which played most of the game without starting center Jasmine Bailey due to injury.
“We dug ourselves a hole early in the first half because we just didn’t have the intensity level on defense that we needed,’’ said Good Counsel coach Tom Splaine. “And when you are down by 10 against a good team, every possession is critical.
“I felt we had the momentum in the fourth quarter. We had to battle back from another 10-point deficit, and the girls fought their guts out. The last possession we had the play we wanted, but just missed a two-foot runner.”
Good Counsel got to within two twice in the third quarter, 45-43 and 49-47, but each time St. John’s answered, and took a 53-47 lead into the fourth.
Rowser hit a jumper and two foul shots and Ray a reverse layup to give St. John’s a 59-49 lead with 5:19 to go. But St. John’s didn’t make another field goal, and was 2-for-16 from the floor in the final period.
Good Counsel charged back one more time, and got to within 59-58 at with 1:56 left after two buckets by Randolph, two foul shots by Fioravanti and a fastbreak jumper by Spann.
Oliver and Fioravanti exchanged foul shots to make it 60-59, and after a miss along the baseline by Randolph, Rowser hit two free throws to make it 62-59 with 16 seconds left, and the defense kept the Falcons from getting a good look at a three-pointer the rest of the way.
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org