Article by Michael Errigo "Washington Post"
The Sidwell Friends girls’ basketball team ended its season hundreds of miles from home, doing what it had done so many times before. In the final minutes of the inaugural State Champions Invitational title game Saturday in Tampa, the Quakers held a comfortable lead and pranced away from hacking defenders in an attempt to drain the clock.
At the final buzzer, they lifted a golden trophy to celebrate one last win and one last championship in a season stocked with both.
The Quakers beat Florida’s Lake Highland Prep, 50-39, to win this new national tournament, an alternative to the Geico Nationals. It was the Quakers’ third championship of the postseason and the perfect closer to a dominant 30-0 campaign.
“We wanted to go out strong,” senior guard Kiki Rice said. “Winning a national championship is something we set out to do at the beginning of the year, so it’s an amazing way to finish.”
The Sidwell boys’ team took part in the same tournament, falling to Florida’s Calvary Christian, 59-37, in a Thursday semifinal.
The girls’ championship win marked the end of a season that will be remembered for some time in D.C. area basketball circles. With plenty of talent on its roster, this Sidwell team came into the winter carrying a load of hype. But over four dominant months, Coach Tamika Dudley’s team found a way to exceed expectations to an almost unimaginable degree. In two transformative seasons, the Quakers went from a quiet but consistent contender in the area’s second-best private school conference to a team widely regarded as the best in the country.
They left very little doubt as they stormed through an ambitious schedule, winning by an average of 27.8 points. Even in the season’s biggest moments, the Quakers won with a surprising level of comfort. They beat Texas powerhouse DeSoto by 18 points in their fifth game of the season. They won the Independent School League title by 34 and the D.C. State Athletic Association championship by 28.
The team faced a stiffer test Saturday as the Highlanders kept things close early. The Quakers even trailed at the end of the first quarter. But they settled in by the second half, especially on the defensive end, and led by multiple possessions for much of third and fourth.
“When we’ve been in tough situations before this, the defense has been the catalyst,” Dudley said. “The girls trust it, and they believe in it. It’s been the constant for us.”
Sidwell held Lake Highland to just 31 percent shooting from the field. On the other end, sophomore forward Kendall Dudley led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds. Junior Jadyn Donovan added 15, and Rice had 10.
“We should be remembered as a team that never wavered,” Rice said. “If you look at our schedule, we didn’t shy away from any kind of competition and we always went out there and competed. … I think we clearly demonstrated we’re the No. 1 team in the country.”