New faces, same results for Largo -- Gazette.Net


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The names have changed, but the results for the Largo High School girls’ basketball team — down seven seniors from last season — have remained the same, if not better.

The Lions (16-5 overall, 16-0 3A/2A/1A League) have won nine straight and are in position to reach their first state tournament since 2011 after graduating Keena Samuels (20 points) and Kierra Williams (15 points) from last season’s 17-7 team. With a stingy defense and a balanced offense featuring five consistent double-digit scorers, Largo heads into tonight’s scheduled regular season-finale against rival Gwynn Park (17-2, 15-1) with a chance to clinch the Prince George’s County 3A/2A/1A League.

“Everybody contributes. We wouldn’t be the team we are without everybody,” junior Alexys Long said. “Everybody contributes something to the table. We just all put it together.”

Long is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 15.8 points. The combo guard has transformed from a contributor averaging about 10 points per game to a dependable ball-handler and shooter, hitting a team-high 19 3-pointers and making 55 of 104 free throws (52.9 percent).

“She’s improved a whole lot and she’s becoming a leader,” Largo coach Ayana Ball-Ward said.

But the 5-foot-10 junior isn’t doing it alone. The team has four other scoring options, including Amel Duggins (12.9), Chance Graham (11.7), Stephanie Guihon (10.8) and Antanae’ Cash (9.2).

“I have a well-rounded team. I’m not just depending on one person to get it done,” Ball-Ward said.

The way Long sees it, there’s not much of a difference between this year’s squad and last year’s, which lost to Gwynn Park 74-57 in the 2A South Region semifinals.

“We expected to do well,” she said. “We came out really confident about how we were going to do this year and I feel like we’re [succeeding].”

Most of the team played together in summer and fall leagues, helping the Lions establish a rhythm and overcome the loss of its seniors, including Samuels, a second team All-Gazette guard.

“It kind of helped us build a little bit of chemistry,” said Duggins, a sophomore guard. “So when we came back, we were able to work more as a team and add more chemistry.”

Duggins is averaging 15.5 points over the past 10 games and scored a game-high 21 points in Largo’s 75-70 win against Gwynn Park on Jan. 16.

Graham, 5-foot-11 center, has been a consistent scorer and rebounder on the guard-heavy Largo team; the sophomore recorded 17 points and 23 rebounds in a 75-40 win over Potomac on Jan. 31.

“We all stepped up as a team, I wouldn’t just pick any one person that stepped up. As a team, we all did what we had to do,” Graham said.

And then there are the players who don’t stand out in the box scores, such as Alexis Chase and Mikayla Edgeworth.

“If they had a column for steals per game or defensive stops per game, Chase and Edgeworth would win that battle every game,” Ball-Ward said. “They give us our defensive push.”

The Lions are scheduled to play Gwynn Park at 7 p.m. in Brandywine. They clinch the 3A/2A/1A League with a win and earn a spot in next week’s county championship game against 4A League champion Eleanor Roosevelt.

If Gwynn Park wins, the two schools share the league title and a coin flip decides who plays Roosevelt for the county title.

“We want to win states,” Long said. “We’re going to go far in the playoffs. We just want to do the best we can and go to states.”

egoldwein@gazette.net