No. 1-ranked Western rolled to the Metro Classic girls championship last night with a touch of deja vu.
Doves senior Dana Johnson earned the Most Valuable Player award for the second straight year. For the 6-foot-3 senior, it was a final chance to be remembered.
Johnson scored 23 points and pulled down 22 rebounds in leading Western over Seton Keough, 72-37. She got 10 points in the first quarter and helped trigger the press and fastbreak in the second quarter when the Doves went on a 16-3 run to forge an insurmountable lead.
"It was my last game and I just wanted to play hard, have a big game and be remembered," said Johnson.
"I asked my players to let the seniors go out in glory," said Western coach Breezy Bishop, who was wearing Johnson's gold No. 53 necklace. "Dana has been the best athlete I've ever coached at the high school level. Before she came along, it was Yvette Mitchell, who graduated in 1983."
Mitchell went on to play for and graduate from Northeastern. Johnson is headed for the University of Tennessee next fall.
"I plan to try out for the Olympic Festival [East Region] team next month," said Johnson. "If I make it, I'll be with them this summer. If not, I'll play summer ball to stay in shape."
Bishop did not hesitate when asked if this team was her best ever.
"It was my most talented, but not my best," she said of the 25-1 Doves. "We lacked patience, discipline and maturity this season. I attribute that to starting three sophomores. It was a difficult team to coach. I never knew which team would show up."
Seton Keough coach Trish Cook always knew which team would show up for her. It displayed a scrappy character all season in winning the Catholic League championship, but, in truth, the Gators (19-5) lacked depth and quickness.
"We went a long way, but we could not play with a quality team like Western," said Cook, who is retiring after 17 seasons. "I just wish it could have been a little closer."
Senior Melissa Cuneo paced the Gators with 16 points. She and seven other seniors will graduate, so Cook figured it was a good time to step down and pursue other interests.