After getting off to a slow start, Gwynn Park High School increased its defensive pressure while forcing Largo into several turnovers and the Yellow Jackets claimed a 74-57 win to advance to the 2A South Region championship game.
Genesis Lucas scored 21 points to lead Gwynn Park, which also got double-digit scoring from Crystal Strother and Kache Fields, who scored 14 and 13 points.
“It’s a great feeling,” Lucas said. “We came out kind of slow, but we knew we needed to pick it up because we didn’t want to lose our last game at home.”
Despite being out-rebounded 12-6 in the first quarter, Largo jumped out to a 19-14 lead in the first eight minutes. The Yellow Jackets, who turned the ball over seven times in the first frame, were getting offensive chances but couldn’t put the ball in the hoop.
That changed in the second quarter, when Gwynn Park scored 24 points and took a one-point lead into halftime.
The second half had none of the uptempo play which the first had. Neither team did a good job of taking care of the ball in the third quarter, but Gwynn Park turned the ball over less.
The Lions, who were led by Keena Samuels’s 25 points, 17 of which came in the first half, turned the ball over 14 times in the third quarter while Gwynn Park did nine times.
“We started off slow, but the girls listened and were able to pull out the win. We played really hard. I’m really proud of them,” Gwynn Park coach Michael Strother said. “In the first half we wanted to sag a little bit to try to stop Keena from penetrating. She was pretty effective in the first half. We still couldn’t do it. The girls were still thinking hug your man instead of sagging. So what we did was we backed into a zone and slowed her down a little bit. Then we went into a halfcourt zone to slow her down as well. Once we were able to do that, she picked up her third foul and we knew we had our opportunity. She’s a heck of a player.”
Turnovers allowed Gwynn Park back into the game in the second quarter, taking a one-point lead midway through on four consecutive baskets off of Lion turnovers. The Yellow Jackets took the game over in the third while going on a 9-2 run in the final 2:30 to take the lead for good.
Samuels was bothered by leg cramps throughout the third and fourth quarters, leaving for extended periods of time. When she was off the court, Gwynn Park’s halfcourt trap led to most of its takeaways and several quick baskets.
“Discipline and mind gaps in our team,” Largo coach Ayana Ball-Ward said when asked why the turnovers increased. “We didn’t stay disciplined with what we executed in the first half. It just came down to the more disciplined team.”
Gwynn Park will play Calvert, which defeated Oakland Mills, 53-36, in the other semifinal game. The game is scheduled for either Friday or Saturday.
Gwynn Park 74, Largo 57
Largo 19 18 12 8 — 57
Gwynn Park 14 24 15 21 — 74
Largo (17-7): Keena Samuels 25, Darnita Manago 10, Kierra Williams 6, Chance Graham 4, Alexys Long 3, Kala Hill 3, Chelsea Okoro 3, Amel Duggins 2, Antanae Cash 2
Gwynn Park (21-3): Genesis Lucas 21, Crystal Strother 14, Kache Fields 13, Tashina Cardwell 9, Takayla Ellis 8, Ashleigh Seegars 4, Tanisha Cardwell 3, Grace Wallace 2