Ashanti Freeland wasn’t a basketball player — or even an athlete — when she arrived at Gwynn Park High School three years ago. But when Yellow Jackets coach Michael Strother noticed the tall freshman at a volleyball practice, he saw star potential.
“I told her coach, I said, ‘I need to see this kid,’” Strother said.
Freeland joined the Gwynn Park girls’ basketball team soon after, and though she struggled at first, the 6-foot-2 senior has since developed into one of the top centers in Prince George’s County.
Freeland showed off how far she’s come on senior night against rival Largo, scoring 16 points and blocking 10 shots to help Gwynn Park defeat its rival, 66-54, Thursday in Brandywine.
“She stabilizes at center,” Strother said. “She started slow but she [recovered] with the rebounds and the blocked shots, and allowed us to get back in the game.”
Gwynn Park (18-3, 15-1) and Largo (15-6, 15-1) will share the County 3A/2A/1A League title after splitting the season series. A coin flip will determine which team plays 4A League Champion Eleanor Roosevelt on Thursday for the county title.
“We needed some blocks, and we told her we needed some rebounds,” Gwynn Park senior Tashina Cardwell said. “Last game they got us because they outrebounded us, so today we said we have to get out there and give intensity and we have to want this game. All of us worked together tonight.”
Freeland, a La Salle University recruit, collected eight rebounds and nearly recorded the rare triple-double with no assists.
“They work more inside, so that means I have to have my hands up and slide my feet,” Freeland said. “So all day, it’s blocks for me.”
While Freeland carried the defense, Cardwell paced the offense with a team-high 18 points. The senior guard scored 11 points in the first half and helped the Yellow Jackets take a 31-22 lead into the locker room.
Largo’s Alexys Long (19 points) and Stephanie Guihon (16) kept the Lions within striking distance for most of the game. Gwynn Park was ahead by as much as 16 in the third quarter but a 10-1 Largo run trimmed the lead to seven midway through the fourth quarter.
That’s when Freeland took over. The senior collected a crucial offensive rebound and converted a short jumper to extend Gwynn Park’s lead back to nine. She went on to score eight points in the fourth quarter, putting the game away.
“It was a big win,” Gwynn Park senior Takayla Ellis said. “… It was a really big win.”
Gwynn Park 66, Largo 54
Largo (15-6, 15-1) 11 11 11 21 — 54
Gwynn Park (18-3, 15-1) 15 16 17 18 — 66
Largo: Alexys Long 19, Stephanie Guihon 16, Amel Duggins 8, Chance Graham 8, Alexis Chase 2, Kendall Ihejirika 1.
Gwynn Park: Tashina Cardwell 18, Ashanti Freeland 16, Chantelle Gross 12, Armoni Mooney 10, Takayla Ellis 6, Chelsey Clark 2, Ashleigh Seegars 2.