As unusual and unwelcome as a Covid-cautious season could be, the girls basketball team for the City of Falls Church’s high school was happy to walk away from it with a Class 3 state title after a 65-49 victory over Spotswood High School on Saturday night.
It was the program’s first state championship in almost a decade.
“We talked a lot about being really thankful for the opportunity of even being able to play, and then the fact that we worked through the whole season and it culminated with the state championship, it’s just the icing on the cake,” head coach Chris Carrico said.
The Mustangs’ “confident, but not cocky” motto was what guided them to an undefeated season at 16-0, and one that, after glancing at their record, seemed largely uncompetitive. Only William Monroe High School provided a viable threat in hindsight, with the Mustangs’ 44-33 home win over the Dragons on Jan. 22 being their smallest margin of victory.
But Saturday’s championship game against reigning Class 3 state champions, Spotswood High School, looked primed to spoil the girls’ perfect season early on.
The Washington Post reported that the Trailblazers sprang out to a 9-2 lead, and had the Mustangs off-kilter with their full court press.
“For the first five or six minutes of the game, we got sped up [by Spotswood],” Carrico said. “They came up with a full court press so we turned the ball over a couple of times, and we couldn’t make our free throws, which would’ve helped calm our nerves and stabilize our game on the court.”
Once Carrico called a timeout to settle some of the butterflies in his team’s stomach, he saw the girls ease into their style of play. From then until halftime, the Mustangs had outscored Spotswood by 11 points, giving the Falls Church crew a 31-27 lead at the break.
A little breathing room emboldened the Mustangs defense to clamp down, with rotations tightening up and the Trailbalzers shooters forced to take contested jumpers. Another big change was their improvement on the glass, with the girls’ bigs snagging rebounds after Spotswood’s misses and helping notch 17 offensive rebounds on the other end.
Entering the fourth quarter up 49-33, the Mustangs took one final plunge to put the game away for good.
“Halfway through the fourth quarter, we went up by as much as 24 points,” Carrico said. “We were able to play the type of game that we wanted in the second half.”
The title is the Mustangs’ first since the 2011-12 season. It’s also Carrico’s first as a head coach of the program he’s led for three years now.
Sophomore forward Elizabeth Creed led the Mustangs with 24 points, followed by guards in junior Bella Paradiso and sophomore Peyton Jones with 12 and junior forward Megan Tremblay with 11. Creed also shot 67 percent from the field, helping lead the team to make 47 percent of their shots overall, and grabbed seven rebounds.