Jocelyn Rodriguez consistently set the basketball nets ablaze with her precision shooting at crucial moments at the Bob Carpenter Center on Monday night.
About the only trouble Rodriguez experienced was cutting the last rungs of the net down. She stood atop a ladder with scissors in hand after St. Elizabeth raced its way to a 60-46 triumph over Caravel in the championship game of the DIAA Girls Basketball State Tournament.
Rodriguez finally managed to cut down her own little personal piece of state tourney history – and the Vikings (20-4) got their state title in front of a crowd of 2,060 spectators.
It was fitting that Rodriguez, the only senior on St. Elizabeth’s roster, made the biggest shots time and time again as the top-seeded Vikings secured their fifth state championship and their first since 2007.
“Caravel had a great run,” said Tom Ferrier, St. Elizabeth’s head coach, about a late Buccaneers’ rally. “We knew they weren’t going to go away, and they got a little close and then Jocelyn [Rodriguez] took over the game. She wasn’t going to be denied. It was her senior year, and there was no tomorrow for her.”
Caravel, the No. 3 seed, had rallied late from a 14-point halftime deficit and pulled to within 6 points at 45-39 as Ky’Asia Stanford banked in a jump shot with 3:47 remaining.
Rodriguez immediately answered that with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then sank a pair of free throws and completed a three-point play following a jumper from the left baseline. St. E finished like champions with a 15-7 run to end the game and clinch the title.
Rodriguez, a guard, scored a game-high 20 points on 7 for 9 shooting and had seven rebounds. Sophomore forward Alex Thomas contributed 14 points and eight rebounds for the balanced Vikings.
Junior center Sabrina Hackendorn netted 10 points to go with nine rebounds, and junior forward Macy Robinson chipped in with 10 points and 13 boards for St. Elizabeth, which converted 48.8 percent of its shots.
Rodriguez has been 100 percent focused on basketball season since her season year began.
“I didn’t participate in volleyball this year, and I told Macy [Robinson], ‘I’m going to focus on basketball … we’re bringing home the championship.’ ” she said. “[Our coaches] told us if we were going to do it any year it was going to be this year, and they were right.”
On Monday, the teams answered each other shot-for-shot in the first quarter. They traded the lead three times, and it was tied on three other occasions before the Vikings took an 8-6 lead on Hackendorn’s short jumper off an inbounds pass.
Then, everything went St. Elizabeth’s way in the second quarter. The Vikings outrebounded Caravel 15-5 in the frame and received 8 points from Rodriguez. They outscored the Bucs 20-8, extending their lead to 28-14 at the half.
“I’m really, really proud of them. Obviously, we’re disappointed with the outcome,” Caravel coach Kristin Caldwell said. “I thought we didn’t start playing until the second half, and when you’re playing a great, tough team, you can’t wait.
“And then you expend so much energy trying to make up ground that it’s really tough. I thought they did a great job on the offensive boards and that really hurt us. It was no surprise. We know they’re tough kids.”
Caravel managed to cut its deficit down to 39-27 heading into the fourth quarter and then opened the final eight minutes up with a 10-4 run as the Bucs pulled to within 43-37.
It appeared as if Caravel was in business, but the Vikings had other ideas.
“We just knew we had to buckle down and hold the ball and do everything we could to walk out of here with a victory,” said Robinson, who was 8 for 8 from the free-throw line. “Rebounding was huge, and I did everything I could to go up and get every rebound I could. I wasn’t scoring, but I knew my defense was going to have to be there in order to proceed and win this game.”
Senior guard Yasmin Walker and sophomore guard Stanford scored 12 points apiece, and sophomore forward Davis added 11 for Caravel (18-6), which was outrebounded 43-23. With that, St. Elizabeth held an impressive 13-3 edge in second-chance baskets.
Ferrier watched with pride as his players stepped up the ladder to cut down the net. All but one of them will be back next season.
But it was more than that to the coach.
“These kids don’t get in trouble at school, they don’t get in trouble at home, they get good grades and show up every day 20 minutes early to practice and it’s absolutely incredible,” Ferrier said. “They’re truly like a family. . . . I’ve never seen anything like this in my 16 years as head coach.”