New Hope Academy to take on Azzi Fudd, St. John's in GEICO Nationals final

Duke recruit Jennifer Ezeh grabs the offensive rebound while finishing through the contact to extend New Hope's lead at the GEICO Nationals.

MIDDLE VILLAGE, NEW YORK -- The New Hope Academy basketball players waited 105 days to get their shot at revenge against Miami Country Day. On Friday at the GEICO Nationals in New York, they got it.

No. 7 New Hope Academy (Landover, Maryland) beat No. 1 Miami Country Day (Florida) 60-52 at Christ the King High School to advance to the girls' final of the GEICO Nationals against St. John's College (Washington, D.C.).

The last time New Hope and Miami Country Day played -- at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona in December -- a four-point play by South Florida signee Maria Alvarez propelled Miami Country Day to a 61-60 overtime win over New Hope.

Neither team had lost since.

"We had a chip on our shoulder ever since that loss," New Hope Academy coach Sam Caldwell said Friday. "When the GEICO teams were announced, we were anxious to play Miami Country Day again."

Miami Country Day (26-2) jumped out to a 19-14 first-quarter lead, but New Hope (39-3) turned things around in the second quarter with a swarming defense. Alvarez, in her final high school game, found herself on the bench with three fouls in the second quarter. The point guard finished with seven points in just 24 minutes.

Sophomore Jada Walker led the way for New Hope with 14 points, and Virginia signee Kylie Kornegay-Lucas and Duke signee Jennifer Ezeh had 12 points apiece.

Miami Country Day is a two-time winner of the GEICO Nationals, taking home the trophy in 2015 and 2017.

"We never look for an easy challenge and we want this type of environment," said Miami Country Day coach Ochiel Swaby, who was named the Naismith Coach of the Year last month. "But we didn't answer today. They were more physical than us and they stepped up -- we didn't. Once they got up, they had confidence."

Vanderbilt signee Koi Love led all scorers with 21 points. She also had 11 rebounds.

In the second semifinal, sophomore Azzi Fudd, the Gatorade National Player of the Year, had 27 points, six rebounds and three assists to lead No. 2 St. John's (36-1) to a 63-61 win over No. 4 Centennial. Alex Cowan added 18 points.

Fudd tied the score at 61-61 with a jumper with 41.7 seconds to go and then hit a pair of free throws for the winning margin.

Centennial (31-2), led by the 18 points from Arizona State signee Eboni Walker, had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but the final shot bounced off the rim.

"I thought we played a bit sloppy and that was probably due to the layoff," Fudd said. "But we survived and we advance to the finals."

New Hope and St. John's play for the title Saturday at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

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