SPRINGDALE – As the second half began, the Charles H. Flowers High School girls basketball team were looking for someone to step up in terms of scoring. The Jaguars struggled offensively throughout the first half against Eleanor Roosevelt High School on Dec. 19, including limiting their star point guard Kaniyah Harris to only eight points.
However, the Raiders were not expecting another Harris to step in her place. Kristian, Kaniyah’s younger sister stepped into the spotlight, guiding the Flowers offense on fast breaks and quick shots. The 5-foot-9 freshman finished their third quarter scoring eight of her final 10 points to create solid distance between their rivals heading into the final moments of the game.
“I felt like I belong on the court,” Kristian Harris said. “I felt like I was doing what I supposed to be doing. It makes me feel supportive that I can have everybody’s back and they will have mine.”
“Honestly, she has a chance to be better than Kaniyah,” Head Coach Roderick Hairston said. “Kristian has a chance in the next three years or four years to surpass her sister’s accomplishments; she’s going to be a good one.”
Despite their star player having an off night and scoring struggles, the Jaguars found help from their surrounding role players to earn a 57-30 victory over Roosevelt.
Flowers (3-0) have not lost a game since Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School earned a 52-51 win back on Jan. 22. Now, the Jaguars have rattled off 18 straight victories, including winning the 4A state championship and defeating their Greenbelt-based rivals four times.
They looked to their depth shooting wise early in the first quarter as they could only score 12 points despite having several attempts at the basket. Hairston credited Roosevelt’s defense which pressured Kaniyah Harris with double-teams and forcing his other Jaguar players to unwanted jump shots.
However, Roosevelt was unable to turn those opportunities into points as they could only muster six points. Things did not get better in the second quarter as the Raiders got into foul trouble, committing 20 infractions in the first half, and put Flowers at the free-throw line. The Jaguars took advantage, going on 19-4 run before halftime and finished the quarter converting 9 of 11 free throws.
Head Coach Delton Fuller, who returned back to the Raider sidelines after a one-year hiatus, said he was happy with the defensive effort but understood that the team is still missing a ball-handler on offense.
“We have a long way to go,” Fuller said. “Rod has a good program and there is a reason why they are state champs…We didn’t follow the game plan, didn’t take care of the ball and follow the plays.”
As the second half began, Flowers found their scoring groove with Kristian Harris and guard Rakisha Ballinger leading the way. As Harris started fast breaks off of turnovers, Ballinger controlled the tempo of their offense whenever she was needed. The transfer scored a game-high 13 points as Flowers’ lead went over 20 points heading to the final period.
Roosevelt could only muster 18 points the entire second half as Flowers attacked with a half-court press to create more turnovers. Fuller said he was impressed with forward Daja Claiborne’s defensive performance while scoring eight points. Fellow guard Sameera Smith scored a team-high 10 points.
For Roosevelt (0-3), the loss was a setback for their lack of offense and turning the ball over 40 times. However, Fuller remains positive about the team’s prospects as the Raiders will look towards Claiborne to lead the way. They return to the court to play Bladensburg after the winter break on Jan. 9.
“We have to take care of the ball,” Fuller said. “We had 22 turnovers at halftime which is unacceptable. I told them before the game to keep it under 25 but 40 turnovers is unacceptable.”
Even though their performance was not as clean as their usual showings, Hairston said there were a lot of positives coming out of the victory. The biggest positive is having his younger players like Kristian Harris and Ballinger take on a physically imposing side like Roosevelt early in the season and seeing how they perform. Their growth will be important in Flowers’ goal of obtaining a second consecutive state title.
“The future looks good here for Flowers basketball,” Hairston said. “But there is a lot of work to do and we have a long way to go.”