Excuse Jocelyn Rodriguez for scoring 20 points Monday night.
It was the last time she would ever play for St. Elizabeth, so the senior got a little out of hand in the championship game of the DIAA Girls Basketball State Tournament at the Bob Carpenter Center.
A St. Elizabeth player had only reached 20 points three times this season. Fittingly, Rodriguez became the fourth different Viking to do it – in the biggest game of all.
“As the game wore on, as she continued to hit big shot after big shot after big shot, I turned to [assistant coach Dan] Cooney and said, ‘Nobody deserves this more than Jocelyn,’ ” St. Elizabeth coach Tom Ferrier said. “We have a lot of deserving kids out there, but nobody deserved it more than she did.”
The rest of them chipped in, too. Alex Thomas scored 14 points, Sabrina Hackendorn added 12 and Macy Robinson scored 10 as the Vikings downed Caravel 60-46 for the fifth girls basketball title in school history.
St. Elizabeth’s last championship game was in 2007, when Khadijah Rushdan led and everybody else followed. Rushdan finished her St. E career with 2,414 points, which trails only Elena Delle Donne on Delaware’s all-time list. But this group of Vikings is different.
“You can’t key on anybody,” Ferrier said. “It’s nice to have a superstar, and I certainly wouldn’t mind having a true, true superstar. But we have great players.”
Five players led the Vikings in scoring this season. Four of them led St. E in scoring in at least five games.
Robinson was the leading scorer at 12.6 points per game. Thomas (10.3), Hackendorn (10.2), Rodriguez (9.7) and Gabby Julian (8.1) weren’t far behind, and Jordyn Humes averaged 3.9 as the first player off the bench most nights.
“At times, they become role players. At other times, they know how to take over the game and put the ball in the basket,” Ferrier said. “I wouldn’t trade this team for anything in the world.”
You never knew who was going to have the biggest night.
“It just turns out somebody has a better game, somebody is hitting their shots,” Thomas said. “Whoever is feeling it, we try to get them the ball more.”
On Monday, Rodriguez was feeling it. Hackendorn set her up for a 3-pointer from the right corner to push the Vikings’ lead to 21-8. She hit another 3 a minute later as part of an eight-point second quarter as St. E built a 28-14 halftime lead.
But Caravel is a proud team, and the Buccaneers pulled within 43-37 with 4:58 to play. The Vikings needed a big play, and they knew where to turn.
Robinson hurled a 60-foot pass to Rodriguez for a layup. A minute later, Julian got into the lane and kicked the ball back out for Rodriguez for a 3-pointer. With 3:09 to go, St. E’s lead was back up to 48-39.
“They promised me that we were going to get a state title, and they told me they wanted me to get enough credit for it,” Rodriguez said of her teammates. “Gabby’s pass to me at the top of the key for a 3-pointer showed that.”
The Vikings hit 14 of 15 free throws. They outrebounded the Buccaneers 43-23, with Robinson snagging 13 of those. They did the things good basketball teams do to win games.
And the best news is, everyone but Rodriguez will be back next season. St. E can go for a repeat. But first, they had to take care of their only senior.
“She took over the game. Every single time we needed a big basket, Jocelyn Rodriguez got a big basket,” Ferrier said. “We told the kids before the game, ‘Win it for yourself, win it for your parents, win it for the parish, win it for your high school.’ But the last thing we said – and it was the most important thing – ‘Win it for Jocelyn Rodriguez, because she won’t have another chance.’ “