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Experience down the stretch holds off Woodson

(Published March 22, 1999)

By ANTHONY EDWARDS

Staff Writer

Midway through the fourth quarter of the girls’ City Title championship game, St. Johns basketball coach Marie Williams told her freshman guard Dawn Chriss to "shoot the ball." The initially tentative freshman took the firm words of encouragement from her coach and sparked a 7-0 burst that closed a once double-digit lead held by H.D. Woodson to just a single point.

With key buckets by Chriss and senior guard Shawntese Charles, the Cadets erased that lead and went on to win the city championship, 54-47, at MCI Center on March 13.

Charles, who was named player of the game for her team, scored 15 points but was also instrumental in full-court pressure coach Williams instructed her girls to execute in the fourth quarter.

"We knew if we kept doing what we did all year, we would have a shot to win," she said. St. Johns ended their season with a 25-6 record, but more importantly their second straight city championship.

Woodson controlled most of the game with great play from their young but talented back court. Freshman Teyonka Hodge and sophomore Shanda Holmes made up for their inexperience much of the game with lightening quick crossover dribbles and other spectacular moves to the basket. Hodge and Holmes finished with 12 and 14 points, respectively.

With a big rebound that triggered a mid-second quarter run by Woodson, junior forward Antionnete Reese seemed to be single-handedly limiting the Cadets to one shot. "That girl can play," reluctantly came from the mouth of one of the St. Johns faithful after she put back a miss from Holmes right before halftime.

With the score 29-22 at the intermission, Woodson looked to be in control of the game. St. Johns showed a little resistance, but with 3:19 to go in the third quarter the lead was pushed back up to nine.

The fourth quarter, though, proved to do the Warriors in. When Charles and Chriss got hot, it enabled their team to apply their press, which resulted in four Woodson turnovers, and an 11-0 run. Woodson wouldn’t go away though. Hodge’s wicked crossover and layup in traffic cut the lead to 46-45 with just over four minutes left, but St. Johns stayed with their offense, which seemed to frustrate the Warriors, who then began fouling. Free throws and continued hard-nosed defense sealed the victory for the Cadets.

Woodson Coach Bob Headen said the inexperience eventually caught up with his girls, but this just gives his team more motivation for next year. "A team that plays this well with only one senior has a lot of up-side," he said.

As for Williams, her post-game smile didn’t flinch once when describing how her girls played. "I’m so proud of them, they showed a lot of heart out there late in the game."

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator