By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)
Despite losing five players from last year’s roster prior to their senior year, the girls basketball team at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes entered its new season with cautious optimism.
The Saints finished last year with a 6-18 record, which included a 1-8 mark away from home in the top division of the competitive Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association. They opened their new campaign with an away contest with Independent School League rivals Maret, who they faced in their opening game of last season and beat 59-40.
Facing the same opponent at the same venue, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes triumphed again 48-35 to get their year underway in the best possible fashion.
Sophomore Kelsey Dunn led the way with 18 points, and hit three three-pointers to help the visitors jump out to an early lead that they would never relinquish. She was supported by junior Mary Grace Gately, who added 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The Saints also combined for 15 steals as they took advantage of sloppy ball-handling by the Frogs on their home court.
The game was played at a frenetic pace, with both teams making errors but managing to cover a tremendous amount of ground up and down the court in breathless four quarters of action in D.C. Saints head coach Calvin Crenshaw believes that was in part due to their relative youth as a team.
“Part of it is because we are very young, we have some juniors but for the most part we have some sophomores and a couple of freshmen,” Crenshaw said. “You have to expect that when you have a young team.”
Dunn’s first three-pointer opened the Saints’ account in the start of the first quarter, and they kept up the momentum through streaking out to a 13-6 lead after the first quarter, managing to prevent their opponents from making many shots in front of a strong home support. At halftime, the visitors were up 28-12, their advantage never dropping below seven points throughout the first two periods.
The frantic pace kept up through the second half, but Maret made some progress in the third quarter as they closed the gap, scoring 12 points to St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes’ eight, with the hosts led by the impressive duo Kate Tank and Paris Rowe, both of whom gathered their fair share of rebounds and managed to log points also.
However, the revival would not last, as the Saints again pulled away in the fourth quarter, an impressive showing against a talented Frogs team that belied the fact that they had only been practising together for two weeks prior to their season opener.
“I thought it was pretty good considering we’ve only been practicing for two weeks,” Crenshaw said. “I thought, of course we’re going to make some small mistakes, but we were able to capitalise on their mistakes and we ended up victorious.
“So far they’re doing well, I think the kids are playing well together. They’re doing some great things; we’re looking for each other on the court and off the court, so I’m looking forward to seeing how successful we can be later in the season.”
The Saints have a tough schedule ahead of them in VISAA, starting after the Thanksgiving break with another away game at Woodson High School in Fairfax. But having come through this opening test unscathed and having played with great intensity, Crenshaw feels his players can cope with whatever challenges they face.
“Right now we have a few injuries and a few players who didn’t come in, but that’s really going to be the tempo that we play at, it’s not just to assert ourselves but we’re really going to have to play at that tempo,” he said. “We’re kind of small, we don’t have any real big post players, so we’re going to have to turn the tempo up a little bit.”
Coming off a losing season, Crenshaw did not state any aims in terms of an overall win-loss record, but said he wants his side to “to play hard and take every challenge.” Against Maret, the Saints did just that, and it should stand them in good stead for the rest of their campaign.