Who: No. 1 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) vs. No. 4 St. Francis (Alpharetta, Ga.)
When: 11 a.m. ET, Friday
Where: Christ The King, Middle Village, N.Y.
About Riverdale Baptist: The Lady Crusaders (36-3) return to New York in hopes of winning their third DICK’s Nationals — their last title was in 2014 — and bring Kaila Charles, who might be the best individual player in the event. Charles spent the early part of the week in Chicago for the McDonald’s All American Game. Charles, a 6-1 forward heading to Maryland, is ranked No. 25 in the ESPNw HoopGurlz rankings. She has posted 25 doubles-doubles this season. Riverdale Baptist will play defense from opening tip to buzzer and has allowed an average of 46 points per game.
Riverdale has size with the 5-11 Charles, 6-1 Georgetown signee Morgan Smith and 6-1 Mangela Ngandjui, who averages a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Smith averages 10 points per game. Teyjah Oliver is a threat from the perimeter and has signed with East Carolina.
About St. Francis: The school is the first girls team from Georgia to play in the DICK’s Nationals after the state association set the precedent last spring by allowing the Wheeler (Marietta) boys to compete. The starting five are four juniors and a sophomore so this might be just their first appearance and not their only appearance. Maya Dodson, a 6-1 forward, is ranked No. 11 in the ESPNw Hoop Gurlz 60 and is being recruited by Connecticut, South Carolina, Stanford, Notre Dame, Maryland, Duke and Tennessee, among others. Kasiyahna Kushkituah is a 6-3 junior ranked No. 5 in the ESPNw 60 and averages 11 points and eight rebounds. Jala Jordan, a 6-1 sophomore, is the team’s leading scorer at 14 points per game and has 13 doubles-doubles this season. And if you want to see a familiar name, the daughters of former NBA player Theo Ratliff — Yasmen and Alexis — come off the bench and are 6-4.
What to expect: Riverdale Baptist has played a difficult schedule and has been battle-tested. The question here is whether St. Francis can slow down Riverdale’s attempts to force turnovers and speed up the pace using its full-court pressure defense. Riverdale Baptist has been to the DICK’s Nationals before, but key players Charles and Morgan Smith transferred in this season. As is always the case at this tournament, big-time recruits are on both sides. Riverdale has a slight edge.