BLADENSBURG – From the moment the referee floated the ball in the air for the opening tip on Jan. 12, Jakia Brown-Turner was unstoppable. After teammate Madison Scott tipped the ball over to guard/forward Liatu King, the six-foot guard for Bishop McNamara High School was already sprinting toward into the paint, waving for a pass.
King fired the ball toward the N.C. State commit, which received the ball in traffic and muscled through two defenders for a layup and a foul for a three-point play. It was a quick reaction start of a standout game for Brown-Turner.
“Any one of our players can take over a game, but we are blessed to have Jakia; she has been with us for four years, and I have had the pleasure to work with her,” Head Coach Frank Oliver Jr. said. “She is just a tough competitor; she really competes, and in her senior year, she really wants to win a championship, and whatever we have to do, she is going to make it happen.”
Brown-Turner shined with a game-high 22 points, bringing life to the Lady Mustangs offense which struggled against a tough Elizabeth Seton defense in the opening half of the game.
With three other players joining the senior’s offensive effort in the second half and standout defense, McNamara’s perfect run continues as they defeated the Roadrunners, 68-37.
The result was indicative of McNamara’s (17-0) start to the season. Of their opening 17 games of this season, only two games ended with a single-digit win as the Lady Mustangs have decimated their opponents. Their run of form has earned them the distinction of the best high school girls basketball team in the nation, according to various outlets.
“We try to stay humble,” junior Madison Scott said. “Everyone on this team stays humble in our own way; We started in freshman year when we were bad or not as good as we are now. So, it has been very important for us to go out and just play. The past three years have been big, and we are growing together as a team so we cannot let it get in our heads with all this momentum.”
McNamara’s one weakness, according to Oliver and Brown-Turner, is their slow starts to games and the Roadrunners took advantage. Seton (9-8) kept the game close in the opening two quarters by playing stringent defense and limiting the Mustangs’ rebounding opportunities. Junior Randi Baldwin scored all of her eight points during the first half streak.
With Seton only down by two points with less than three minutes remaining before halftime, Oliver called a timeout to bring composure back to his veteran side. The break worked wonders as McNamara exploded into a 12-2 run to end the half. Back-to-back steals and quick transitions turned into easy points. Scott scored four points on the run as McNamara held a 12-point advantage at the break.
“We had a good first quarter but after that, turnovers and mental mistakes killed us down the stretch,” Seton Head Coach David Bell said. “They took advantage of that, and that was the rest of the game.”
McNamara regained their defensive composure with blocks and forced three turnovers which limited Seton to only three points in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Brown-Turner had her best offensive period as she bullied down towards the paint to take a quick jump shot. The away side of McNamara fans cheered with approval Brown-Turner launched and connected her only 3-pointer of the game. She scored 10 points during the period and sat down for the fourth quarter.
“It’s been a good start of a season for me, but I just try to keep the team positive, disturbing the ball and keep playing together,” Brown-Turner said. “I am just trying to be a leader for my teammates.”
While Seton attempted to fight back, scoring 13 fourth-quarter points, it was not enough to stop the Lady Mustangs. Role player Christina McPhail scored 12 points off the bench, including back-to-back 3-pointers, to secure the road win for McNamara.
The Forestville-based squad’s rise has been a slow build since losing in the semifinals of last year’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) Championships.
Oliver said his team is strong enough to continue playing toward their championship goals while keeping the off-the-court news in the background of their success.
“We are getting there,” Scott said. “That is where our heads are right now. Our goal right now is winning the WCAC Championship, and we are going to do everything in our power to get that.”