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LARGO – For the fourth-straight year, the Largo Lady Lions are crowned as the 1A South Region Champions as they defeated Surrattsville 51-34 on their home court on March 9.
With the home crowd behind them with the addition of their playoff experience, Largo came out of the gates primed and ready as they started the game on a 6-0 run.
That forced Surrattsville to call a timeout early in the game. Out of the timeout, Surrattsville went on a 6-0 run of their own that tied the game and the rest of the first quarter was a back-and-forth affair as both teams got a feel for each other, that resulted in the score notched at 12 after the first quarter.
This matchup was much unlike their first one on Jan. 24 when Largo thrashed Surrattsville 54-19. However, the second period was a different story.
“Between the first and second quarter, we had better energy in the second quarter,” said Largo senior guard Johnnae Matthews, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. “We knew what we had to do and that was (to) execute and listen to our coaches so we could win the game.”
In the second quarter, Surrattsville hit their first shot to take their first lead of the game. After that, Largo went on a brutal 15-2 run that gave them a 27-16 lead.
Largo performed well all-around as they played better defense, grabbed more rebounds, hit more shots and played with more intensity. Surrattsville had no answer as they only scored seven points in the second frame and went down by a 10-point deficit (29-19) at halftime.
“We played CMIT on Thursday, and they didn’t have a great showing,” Largo Head Coach Ayana Ball-Ward said. “I think them just trying to get their bearings and get back to the flow of how we really play set the tone for that first quarter. They just had to get their feet back under them.”
Both teams came out of the locker room with a defensive mindset in the second half. Both units struggled offensively in the third quarter as they missed shots and committed numerous turnovers. Each squad scored in single digits as Largo managed to hold on to a double-digit lead.
“Defensively, I feel like number one (Alexia Hackett) strapped down their best player, which was number two (Tori Tolson),” said junior guard Vanessa Schwarzmann, who ended the game with a game-high of 14 points, said. “When she (Tolson) fouled out of the game, we had to push up on them. As the coaches said, they didn’t really have that many ballhandlers, so we went at their best ballhandlers hard.”
In the final quarter, Largo ended the game on a strong note and did not let up with a comfortable lead. The Lady Lions played as if they were down by double digits instead of the other way around.
They increased their lead to as much as 17 points in the fourth quarter. Although Schwarzmann and Matthews led the way offensively, Largo had other key contributors.
Hackett had five steals to go along with her seven points. Senior forward Billie Johnson had a bad shooting night as she shot 2-of-13 from the field, but she came up big on the glass with 13 rebounds, which included nine offensively. Sophomore guard Na’Khari Seymore led the way for Surrattsville with nine points.
“Everybody counted us out at the beginning of the season,” Ball-Ward said. “Nobody thought we would be here because we didn’t have that superstar on our team. They knew all season they had to come together and play as a team all season. We can improve on discipline and making odd decisions.”