SPRINGDALE — The Charles H. Flowers girls basketball team used a stifling defense and a balanced offensive attack to cruise to a blowout home victory over Laurel High School, 59-7, on March 9 to capture the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A South Regional Championship.
Flowers guard Kaniyah Harris led the way with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and six steals as the Jaguars secured their 15th consecutive win.
“Laurel is a good team, but we came out and executed our plays. We mainly focused on defense; the offense will come along as the game goes. The defense was our main priority,” Harris said.
“My plan tonight was for me to get going so I can my girls open. And once I get my girls open, everyone’s involved in the game. They are positive, their energetic on the court, and that’s when we start having fun.”
Likewise, Flowers first-year Head Coach Roderick Hairston commended his opponent for a hard-fought effort and credited his team with prioritizing defense.
“First of all, I want to say Laurel came prepared to play. I think my girls were just a little more experienced,” Hairston said.
“I think my girls were ready tonight. We weren’t as sharp as I (would have) liked, but they worked it out, they worked through it and it’s on to the next.”
When Laurel and Flowers met earlier this season on Dec. 20, 2018, the Lady Jaguars topped the Lady Spartans, 62-45. But this time around, the Lady Jaguars held the Spartans to only three field goals in the first half and scoreless in the second half.
“That’s our signature. You know, we play tough defense. I didn’t even recognize that they didn’t score in the second half,” Hairston said.
“The kids worked through all the difficulties and the problems and executed our game plan which was defensive pressure. That’s how we play.”
The Lady Jaguars put themselves in a comfortable position early by forcing turnovers from fullcourt traps and easy conversions on the other end to go up 22-5 after the first quarter.
From there, the lead steadily grew, and Flowers never let up on the defensive end – even when the reserves checked in in the final minutes.
Harris, a 5-foot-10 junior, led the defensive effort and continuously pushed the ball in transition to set her teammates up for easy baskets to help Flowers gain a 47-7 lead after the third. She and the other starters sat out the entire fourth.
Cori Robinson, Indira Nzerue and Jasmine Hilton chipped in with eight points apiece for Flowers. The three guards combined for eight rebounds, five assists and eight steals.
As a team, the Jaguars tallied 25 steals, hindering scoring opportunities for the Spartans from tipoff.
Laurel, the winners of the Section I division of the 4-A South bracket, concludes its season with an overall record of 17-7.
“I thought we had an excellent season. We overachieved,” said Laurel Head Coach Mike Hines.
“We gotta work with our ball handling. We gotta work with youth. We’re going to have to get to that moment, so we’re very, very nervous.”
In addition, Hines applauded Flowers’ defense. “Their (Flowers) defense – you got to be ready for that. They’re an excellent program…The turnovers hurt us a lot,” he said, also explaining how proud he was of the seniors who will be moving on.
Junior forward Malaika Treadwell scored two points and pulled down a game-high nine boards for the Spartans.
Also, Franxine Cooper scored two and grabbed eight rebounds, while guard Sydney Woodland had two points.
The Lady Jaguars improved to 22-2 on the year with the 52-point win, which was their largest margin of victory this season since decimating High Point by 84 points (90-6) on Dec. 18, 2018.
Flowers advances to the state semifinals where it will face Western High School (Baltimore) on March 14 at 3 p.m. at Towson University’s SECU Arena.
“I expect a sharper focus. I expect effort. I expect a positive attitude,” said Hairston of his expectations for his team as it prepares to head to Towson.
“I think the outcome will be positive if we can stick to the script.”