There was nothing at stake in Thursday’s regular season finale between the Gwynn Park High School and Friendly High School girls basketball teams, but you wouldn’t have known it by the intensity on the court.
The top two teams in the County 3A/2A/1A League put on a show, with Friendly pulling away late for a 72-60 victory to end Gwynn Park’s 13-game winning streak.
“I told the girls at halftime, that this was a great game,” Friendly coach Carroll Holmes said. “We knew it was going to be that way, because both teams like to get up-and-down the floor, and both teams are very good.”
In the end, it was Friendly’s height advantage that proved to be too much for host Gwynn Park, which had already clinched the league title and a berth in Wednesday’s county championship game against County 4A League champion Eleanor Roosevelt (21-0).
When Friendly needed a basket to end a Gwynn Park run, they fed it inside to either Chayla Lewis (5-foot-8) or Janay Carter (6-foot-1). They usually got a layup opportunity, an offensive rebound, or were fouled.
Lewis helped the Patriots (18-4, 16-2 in league) open up a 9-2 lead with four points during that run, but the Yellow Jackets (18-3, 17-1) used their pressure defense to come back.
“That was our whole plan, to keep the pressure on the basketball and to force them to turn the ball over,” Gwynn Park coach Michael Strother said.
The Jackets used the press to take a 16-12 lead with 19.8 seconds left in the first quarter. However, Friendly’s Breanna Brown hit a 3-pointer with a second left to narrow the lead entering the second quarter.
There, the Patriots did a much better job handling Gwynn Park’s trapping defense, making quick passes to get the ball inside to their post players.
“We’ve been working on keeping our composure against their trap, they do an outstanding job with traps,” Holmes said.
Friendly opened up a 35-30 lead, but the Yellow Jackets went on a 6-2 run in the final minute, including Armoni Mooney hitting a mid-court 3-pointer at the buzzer, to only trail 37-36 at halftime.
The star offensively for Gwynn Park was junior Takayla Ellis, who made six of her eight 3-point attempts during the game and finished with 21 points.
“We knew it was going to be an intense game, Friendly was coming to win,” Ellis said. “We came to win too.”
It was 3-pointers that kept Gwynn Park in the game. The Yellow Jackets made eight of them, most coming at the right time to stop a Friendly run. But during the third quarter, the Patriots’ inside game started to pull away as Gwynn Park’s shooters started missing from outside.
Friendly opened up a 52-47 lead with 1 minute, 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter and made it an 11-point lead (69-58) with 3:07 to play in the game. Lewis finished with 20 points, Brown had 15 and Carter 14 for the Patriots.
For Friendly, the game was a bit of redemption. Gwynn Park won the first game in Fort Washington, 59-43, on Jan. 15. There will be no third game this year, as Friendly prepares for the 3A South Region tournament and Gwynn Park is headed for 2A South Region play.
“We knew that we were the better team,” Carter said. “When they came to our gym, we had a let down in the third quarter, but tonight we wanted it as much as they did.”
Friendly 72, Gwynn Park 60
Friendly 15 22 19 16ญญ — 72
Gwynn Park 16 20 16 8 — 60
Friendly (18-4, 16-2): Chayla Lewis 20, Breanna Brown 15, Janay Carter 14; Danielle Pray 11, Marche Sisco 8, Damicia Armstrong 4.
Gwynn Park (18-3, 17-1): Takayla Ellis 21, Genesis Lucas 14, Armoni Mooney 8, Ashleigh Seegars 6, Tashina Cardwell 5, Chantelle Gross 4, Kache’ Fields 2.