Surrattsville High School's girls basketball team is relatively young, with only four seniors on the roster of 10. Still, senior guard Jasmine Hill said she told her teammates what to expect heading into Friday's Class 1A South Region championship game against two-time defending state champion Paul Laurence Dunbar.
“It's football,” Hill said after Dunbar earned a 54-43 victory. This is the third straight year Surrattsville has lost to Dunbar in the region title game. “I've been here before, I've played in this game for three years, so I knew it would be physical, I just had to get my teammates ready for that.”
Dunbar advances to the state semifinals, scheduled for March 8 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The Poets face 4A East Region champion Mardela.
Dunbar opened up a 13-5 lead in the game's first five minutes. Most of that came during a 9-0 run after Surrattsville had taken a 5-4 lead with 5 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Typical play during that run, a Dunbar player would crash into a Surrattsville ball handler, wrestle away the ball and then score a layup as the Hornets were looking at the referees anticipating a foul. The whistle rarely blew.
The officials did call the game evenly, they called very few fouls on either team. By the time the Hornets (11-12) adjusted, they were in the hole.
Dunbar's LaShay Stackhouse and Alyiah Brockington dominated inside the lane, where they were camped most of the game. The pair were called for three, three-second lane violations during the game and could easily have had a dozen more. Stackhouse led the Poets (14-5) with 12 points, Brockington added 11.
Hill, the Hornets leading scorer this season, helped lead her team back. Surrattsville trailed 35-31 with 3:18 left in the third quarter after back-to-back layups by Shanel Edwards. In that run, it was the Hornets crashing into Dunbar ball handlers, yanking the ball away and scoring on wide-open layups.
But Dunbar has been playing the physical game longer than Surrattsville. The Poets adjusted and pulled away, forcing Surrattsville to foul at the end to try and rally. Dunbar made 6-of-7 free throws in the final 1:34 of the game to prevent that from happening.
“I'm quite proud of the team, because of the progression that they had,” first-year Surrattsville coach Tynisha Payton said. “We won three on the road games during the postseason, and we came in here and didn't give up, we fought to the very end, and that's more than anyone expected from them.”
Four of the five girls who scored for the Hornets in Friday's game were the seniors (Hill, Edwards, Janay Nelson and Loreal Bledsoe). But the six returning players gained some valuable experience. Plus, there is one reason for all 1A South Region coaches to be hopeful of the future: Dunbar is scheduled to move to Class 2A next year.
“On the one hand, we're happy that Dunbar is moving up, on the other hand we're not because we don't know what level of competition the new teams coming in are at,” Payton said.
Dunbar 54, Surrattsville 43
Surrattsville 9 11 11 12—43
Dunbar 16 12 9 17—54
Surrattsville (11-12): Jasmine Hill 18; Janay Nelson 12; Shanel Edwards 6; Caniyia Buckner 5; Loreal Bledsoe 2.
Dunbar (14-5): LaShay Stackhouse 12; Alyiah Brockington 11; Shamar Prilliam 11; Jaquerra Jackson 7; Julia Gunthrop 6; Kahla McIver 3; Briana Smith 2; Leslie Ann James 2.