BLADENSBURG – Midway through the second quarter on Dec. 13, Bladensburg High School girls’ basketball team started to impose its will on Crossland High School.
After a putback layup by senior forward Ethel Kamani, the Mustangs collected two straight steals and converted in transition each time. Then, off a missed Cavalier 3-pointer, Kamani grabbed the rebound, ran the length of the floor, and scored on a layup.
It was part of an 8-0 run that pushed Bladensburg’s lead from 20-9 to 28-9, pushing the contest from slightly out of reach to game over for Crossland.
“We practice like it’s an actual game,” Kamani said. “So when it’s game time, it shouldn’t be as hard.”
The Mustangs did what they expected to do as they crushed the Cavaliers, 61-23. Although Bladensburg (2-0) went just 8-14 last year, it has a veteran group of five seniors coming into this season, including dynamic point guard Asia Adams.
“We still got a lot work to do,” Head Coach Lester Butler said. “We play 4A ball. Teams are a lot stronger. We have to get ready for Roosevelt, Wise and Flowers. I know they’re looking at us.”
Crossland (1-3), meanwhile, snapped a 23-game losing streak with a 49-38 win over High Point on Dec. 11. During that streak, the Cavaliers had lost to opponents by an average of 42.7 points per game.
They only trailed by three points late in the first quarter, thanks to 3-pointers from Taniah Ellison and Kamille Canlas. However, Crossland did not have enough firepower to keep the deficit close throughout the contest. Canlas finished with a team-high 15 points and was the only Crossland player able to create consistently on the offensive end of the floor.
Kamani scored back-to-back layups to end the first quarter, and a jumper from Marissa Bee to start the second quarter pushed Bladensburg’s lead to 15-6.
The Mustangs started to mix up their defense in the second quarter. They began to run a 1-2-2 half-court trap to slow down Canlas and make somebody else on the Cavaliers beat them. Bladensburg then used a simple full court press, getting in the face of the potential ball handler off a made basket to create problems for Crossland’s inbounded player.
The press, which the Mustangs call the “22” defense, was not introduced to Crossland yet by Butler. In this game, it was Bladensburg’s more experienced players relying on previous knowledge to use it and make plays. It worked, as sophomore guard Katherine Aguilar and Adams picked up passes that led to easy layups.
Bladensburg led 32-17 at halftime and continued to put the pressure on Crossland in the second half. The Mustangs finished with 11 steals in the second half, but only a few of them came from their press. The turnovers came from being active in passing lanes and taking advantage of sloppy Cavalier passes and general fatigue. Crossland only played its five starters for much of the night, and Canlas only went to the bench for less than a minute after wincing on one possession.
That allowed Bladensburg to dominate the second half, reeling off a 20-0 run to end the game. The Mustangs closed the third quarter on an 8-0 run, including an impressive Euro-step move by Adams to score a 2-point basket. Crossland elected to have a running clock with less than five minutes left, speeding up the inevitable Bladensburg victory. Kamani and Adams were consistent all night for the Mustangs, scoring 19 and 15, respectively.
According to Butler, it is Adams who makes the offense go.
“She understands the game,” Butler said. “I actually let her call plays…And her teammates listen to her.”
Though the Mustangs 2-0 start is much better than the 1-8 record they had to begin last season, they know they have a long way to go. As a 4A school, Bladensburg has some challenging games, including its next game on Dec. 17 against Bowie.
“We have to come to practice as a team so we can work on stuff that we need to work on to perfect our craft,” Adams said. “(Things like) communication skills, better passes and less turnovers.”