BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis from No. 1 seed Riverdale Baptist’s 73-42 win over No. 4 seed Edgewater in the semifinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep on Friday:
Overview: Both teams were missing their top player, with Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) senior Jonquel Jones and Edgewater (Orlando, Fla.) senior Alexis Prince both in Denver this weekend to participate in an All-American game. The difference, however, was that even without Jones, Riverdale Baptist still had six other Division I college recruits to work with.
The No. 6 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Riverdale Baptist played suffocating defense for 32 minutes to cruise into Saturday's NHSI final, which will be televised live at noon ET on ESPN2. With three starters taller than six feet, the Crusaders made it almost impossible for Edgewater to get a good look at the basket, forcing Edgewater into 13 percent shooting in the first half and a 19 percent mark for the game. Riverdale Baptist opened an 18-point margin in the second quarter and never looked back.
The trio of sophomore Auteaonna Gilmore, senior Kelila Atkinson and freshman De’Janae Boykin was especially productive for Riverdale Baptist, combining for 36 points. Senior Jennie Simms finished with eight points and 11 rebounds.
Riverdale Baptist is also without head coach Diane Richardson this weekend. Richardson and Jones are in Colorado to participate in the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association High School All-America Game.
Turning Point: Edgewater jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead to start the game, but once Riverdale Baptist settled in defensively, the game was over. The Crusaders forced nine turnovers in the first half and converted them into nine points. Edgewater managed just seven points in the first quarter and found itself trailing 33-18 at the half.
Boykin was a defensive catalyst for Riverdale Baptist, coming up with a pair of steals and five rebounds.
Key Player: Boykin put on a show in Jones’ absence. The 6-foot-1 guard/forward scored 12 points in addition to her five boards and two steals. The freshman’s play will be critical in Saturday’s championship game, when the Crusaders will once again be without Jones.
“De’Janae Boykin stepped up,” said Simms. “She’s capable of doing the same things as Jonquel. She really helped us on the boards.”
Key Stat: Baptist crushed Edgewater inside, finishing the game with a 54-10 advantage in scoring in the paint. With no player taller than 5-11 seeing minutes for Edgewater, the Eagles simply couldn’t compete under the basket.
Playing without the 6-foot-2 Prince certainly didn’t help matters. The Baylor-bound forward won MVP honors at the McDonald’s All-American Game earlier in the week.
“Normally Lexi handles the inside and locks that down,” said Edgewater junior guard Trimaine McCullough. “We weren’t able to fill that.”
Up Next: Riverdale Baptist will once again be without Jones in Saturday’s title game (ESPN2, noon ET), but the Crusaders have already proved they can play without her. Players like Boykin and reserve senior forward Brittany Murray (eight points, three rebounds) will have to continue to fill the void.