LARGO – Despite competing against each other in a summer league game, both Frederick Douglass High School and Largo High School played with the intensity of a regular season matchup.
The tense atmosphere is a result of the two rivals playing each other three times last season, where the Eagles defeated Largo 65-61 during last season’s state playoffs.
Their Summer Madness league meeting on June 9 was no different, adding another chapter to their rivalry. At the end of the fierce contest, Douglass would come out on top, thanks to a team-high 12 points by Abdou Samb, to defeat Largo 41-32.
Both Largo and Douglass arrived in the summer league with revamped rosters. Combined, both teams lost 13 seniors and will have to rebuild their rosters off the backs of their young talent.
“It’s a new team so we got to get the bond back together and stay humble,” Samb said. “Get back and do what we used to do.”
The first half was a defensive battle as Douglass entered halftime with only a 14-11 lead. A pair of off-the-backboard blocks by Largo center Xzavier Hawkins was the main highlight of the period. His most impressive block occurred when he was matched up with Douglass’ Mikhai Arnold. The guard thought he found the space for an easy layup. However, Hawkins smacked the would-be layup off the glass, negating the basket.
Both teams used a full-court press to limit each other’s offense reaching a stalemate. Douglass had trouble adjusting to the defensive pressure and caused the young Eagles to commit turnovers. Largo would score points but were still down heading into halftime.
According to Largo guard Donte Woody, as the Lions get better acclimated to one another, breaking down press defenses will be easier and the stronger they will be in the future.
“We just got to get better as a team, try to bond more,” Woody, who scored 14 points, said, “We weren’t really clicking out there as a team, missing passes, and stuff. Open passes we were missing, we just have to come together, be around a little more so we can bond more.”
Douglass forward Abdou Samb was a threat on both sides of the court. On defense, he used his height to record two blocks and his long arms in passing lanes to block any open lanes for the Lions to initiate their half-court offense.
With Samb anchoring the defense, Douglass went on a 7-1 run at the start of the second half. The scoring drive would be capped off with the Eagles taking an eight-point lead after Samb converted a three-point play.
“We just had to get them uncomfortable,” Samb said. “Get them moving; they can’t handle the ball like that, so we just put pressure on them, then we just got turnovers and transition (points).”
Douglass’ lead ballooned to as many as 10 points after three converted free throws. However, Largo would cut the lead to five points after a steal and floating shot from Woody narrowed the advantage. Douglass would end the Lions’ dreams of a comeback by successfully closing the game out thanks to four free throws from Darnell Snowden.
“Anytime it’s a tough game, that’s we live for,” Douglass Assistant Coach DeVaughn Acors said.
The win helped Douglass with finding a new starting lineup while developing a new supporting cast. With the departure of captain Kaylen Vines, the Eagles will be looking for new talents that can help spread the ball around on the offense. Samb will continue his shooting forward role with teammates like guard Arnold (seven points), Snowden (six points) and guard Justin Harris (nine points) will collaborate more often than before.
“My young guys, they are working hard every day,” Acors said. “I definitely look forward to them actually taking the court and be demanding out there. One thing from last year we relied on (Vines) but this year we’re going to have to do it collectively as one team.”
Despite the loss, Largo learned more about its team and how they will become a team-by-committee with rising seniors Woody, forward Amir Garner and forward Chidera Nnawuba leading the way. The three players sat and absorbed a lot of knowledge from their upperclassman leaders over the years and now look forward to applying that on the court.
Together with Hawkins, Largo’s coaching staff believes that the Lions will have a strong nucleus of talent to improve upon a 10-14 season.
“We’re going to need our seniors to step up,” Assistant Coach Khari Sawell said, “We got three seniors that have been in the program going on four years. We always tell them to stay down until it’s your time; they’re seniors now it’s their time. They have to step up and show why they’re in the program.”