NEW YORK — Evidently revenge is a dish best served young.
In a rematch of top-10 programs and rivals from neighboring conferences, Miami Country Day School (MCDS), led by a youthful core and breakout performances from eighth grade guard Maria Alvarez and star turns from seniors Oguchi Anyagalibo and Michelle Berry knocked off Dillard (Fort Lauderdale) 57-41 to win the DICK’S Nationals girls championship game Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Alvarez scored eight points, Anyagalibo finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds inside and Berry took over in the second half to finish with a game-high 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans, ranked No. 7 in the Super 25.
Anyagalibo was named the Most Valuable Player.
The Miami Country Day School victory avenged one of only two losses for the team during the 2014-15 campaign, a four-point setback to Dillard.
“It was really simple for us,” Miami Country Day School coach Ochiel Swaby said. “Last night I went home and we looked at the film and they dominated the glass. We had to rebound better, and I challenged my forwards to rebound better. Both of them did that and they had double-doubles. I thought we could beat them by 15 and we beat them by 16.”
It was 34-21 at halftime, thanks in large part to MCDS’ impressive 60.9 percent shooting from the field, and while Dillard emerged from the half with renewed focus, the Spartans proved almost unstoppable on the break.
Despite Super 25 No. 3 Dillard controlling the pace throughout much of the period, MCDS’s lead actually expanded to 14 by the end of the third, 44-30. As both teams adjusted to Dillard’s trapping press, brought on by its surprisingly steep early deficit, the game became sloppy.
Dillard was no more efficient with the ball than Miami Country Day School, neutralizing any edge it may have gained from the trap. Jamesha Paul led the Panthers with 12 points while Jacaira Allen added 11, but many came when the game was out of reach.
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Dillard coach Marcia Pinder said that she felt Miami Country Day School, “wanted it more,” and the Spartans were happy to support that impression.
“We needed this game and the rematch,” Anyagalibo said. “I didn’t like how everyone kept telling me that Dillard was a better team than us.
Added Berry: “They were No. 1 in Florida just because they beat us the first time. We wanted to come back and hit them hard.”
The final score was 57-41, a score that qualifies as being hit quite hard, and there was less drama in the final moments of the game than anyone could have expected before tipoff.
In the end, Dillard just never got going from outside the paint to a degree where its offense could work effectively. The Panthers finished shooting a miserable 28 percent compared with MCDS’ 46 percent.
The questions now for Miami Country Day School will shift to legacy, as the Spartans return all but three members of a team that captured the DICK’S crown, including superstars Kelsey Marshall and Dashaun Jackson.
The Spartans become the second school from Florida to win the girls title, following Dr. Phillips’ victories in 2011 and 2013. Three of the six DICK’S girls champions have come from the state of Florida, and the Spartans might very well join Dr. Phillips as two-time champs if this current core continues to develop.
“We’ve been blessed to have some young kids,” Swaby said. “Kelsey Marshall comes to us as a sophomore, DaShaun Jackson has come as a sophomore, Maria Alvarez is an eighth grader. Some luck does play a part and we’ve been fortunate and blessed to have some great kids come in.”