TOWSON – The Pikesville High School girls basketball team sprung out on an early scoring spree that Largo could not contend with, as the Lady Lions fell 71-41 in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) state semifinals on March 15.
A double-double outing from sophomore forward Kristin Sterling (23 points and 10 rebounds) plus contributions from junior Tyra Robinson (14 points) and sophomore Keante Lewis (10 points) led the Panthers. Senior Vanessa Schwarzmann’s 11 points guided Largo as she was the only player who scored in double-figures.
“I think we worked hard, and I thought about that a lot,” Sterling said. “How much we worked for it, how much we deserved it. I think we wanted it more, so I wanted it more for us.”
The game was over as quickly as it started before senior Janaya Simms sank a layup to get the Lions on the board. Pikesville then went off for a 15-0 run that spanned the opening quarter and quickly stretched to a 20-point lead.
“Everybody didn’t show up to play,” Largo senior Johnnae Matthews said. “We practiced well, but I guess everybody got nervous because of the title game.”
The Lady Lions only got within a 17-point margin (25-8) after Largo sophomore guard Alexia Hackett delivered an assist to senior Taylor Lewis for a layup. A subsequent back-and-forth sequence from the two programs occurred when Robinson converted a Euro-step layup in transition that increased the deficit back to 20 points.
The Lady Lions’ Matthews cut it back to 35-16 to end the first half and gave Largo some energy for a second-half push.
Senior big Billie Johnson immediately made her presence known after a scoreless half when she caught the ball and drove for a layup. On her next scoring opportunity, she read the passing lanes for a steal and converted on another layup to make it a 17-point deficit.
The Panthers then countered and sealed their victory with a decisive 11-0 run, highlighted by Robinson scoring three layups in a row, forcing a Largo timeout. Robinson clapped excitedly with her teammates as they celebrated the triumphant moment.
“At that moment I didn’t really know how many steals I had got,” Robinson, “The opportunity really presented itself. That point of the game really gave the momentum to our team, so it was really important.”
In his postgame comments, Pikesville Head Coach Michael Dukes said the impetus of their game-winning formula of attacking and being physical against Largo was the innovation of using more “body bags” in the last two weeks of practice as the Panthers forwards began to enjoy and embrace physicality before facing Largo in the state semifinals.
“What impressed me (was) they enjoyed it, and they were asking for it,” Dukes said, “I was really pleased that they (were) embracing the contact. We came in, and kind of said let’s put those bodies on their bigs and really wear them down.”
For Largo, it was the end of a rocky season but an awesome one nonetheless, according to Largo Head Coach Ayana Ball-Ward. Her seniors, who were role players just one season ago, embraced the task of being dominant and brought the Lady Lions to a fourth-straight state semifinals appearance.
“Just what I told them in the locker room, I said no one expected us to be here because of who we lost (to),” Ball-Ward said, “None of these young ladies played a major role on that team we had. For them to make it this far and to beat the teams we had to beat to get here shows it shows their character and their drive to want to win.”