MIDDLE VILLAGE, N.Y. – The way Jada Walker sees it, the last time she and New Hope Academy (Landover Hills, Md.) lost, they should’ve won.
The Tigers fell to Miami (Fla.) Country Day, the top ranked team in the USA Today Super 25, by just one point in overtime, a loss that never set well with Walker; so when she saw that they’d be matched up with the Spartans in the semifinals at GEICO High School Nationals on Friday, Walker was excited she’d get the opportunity exact revenge.
Walker scored 14 points to help the No. 8 Tigers upset the Spartans 60-52.
Koi Love led Miami Country Day with 21 points.
“When we first saw the four teams that were playing at GEICO we wanted Miami Country Day,” Walker said. “We knew that that’s a game that we should’ve won and to get a chance to prove that feels good.”
The Spartans built an early 19-14 lead behind the hot hands of Love and Theodule, who went 3-of-3 from the three-point line, but when Maria Alvarez picked up her third foul in the second quarter the Spartans began to fold.
The Tigers took their first lead, 28-27, when Kornegay-Lucas intercepted a pass and laid it up and Walker extended the lead, 33-29, when she beat the halftime buzzer with a three-pointer.
The Tigers capitalized on the Spartans five-minute scoring drought in the third quarter and extended the lead to 47-34 headed into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Miami Country Day implemented an effective full-court press that sped the Tigers up and forced them to take hurried shots; that helped them cut the lead to 46-51 on Milani McCormack’s three-pointer with just under three minutes left in regulation.
But Jennifer Ezeh scored six points and grabbed three rebounds down the stretch to secure the win.
“I just take my hat off to them for bring physical and playing to their strengths and us not being able to react to it,” Miami Country Day coach Ochiel Swaby said. “They did a good job of taking Maria out of the game. This is about kids learning lessons and growing. Give them all the credit.”
The Tigers will play the No. 2 St. John’s High School (Washington, D.C.) – No. 4 Centennial High School (Las Vegas) winner Saturday at 10 a.m. (ESPN2) for the title.
The final Super 25 Girls Basketball Rankings will be released on April 8.
“We were extremely confident all year,” New Hope Academy coach Sam Caldwell said. “When we lost to them it left a bad taste in our mouth. We’ve been playing with a chip on our shoulders ever since. We feel like we’re the No. 1 team, but we’ve gotta prove that to the world.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY