Pushups embody Largo’s mission

If college coaches wander into the gym at Largo High School to see the girls’ basketball team play this year or in seasons to come, they might be puzzled to see some of their potential targets drop to the ground in front of the bench for some pushups when they come out of the game, or step toward the sideline for a quick set of pushups while an opponent is shooting the first of two foul shots.

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If they’re concerned about the mental well-being of their would-be recruits, perhaps worried the pushups represent some team-wide obsession with upper-body strength, they shouldn’t be: the pushups are the Largo Lions’ way of acknowledging, reprimanding, and moving on from mistakes, and they seem to be doing the trick: Largo’s youthful roster — which features three seniors, one in the starting lineup — is off to a 6-3 start, 6-0 in Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A.

“When you miss a layup or doing something kind of stupid, you have to do pushup,” junior Alexys Long said. “It’s practice, it’s games, it’s always.”

Asked if the Lions do a lot of pushups, sophomore guard Antanae’ Cash said, “No, not really.”  Long said, “Well, it depends…” Given the way the Lions have dismantled league competition, it’s hard not to believe Cash: In six league games, Largo is outscoring opponents by an average of nearly 48 points per game, with the smallest margin of victory (20) coming against Crossland, in a game both Cash and Long identified as the one they’re most proud of so far this season.

“It’s been projected for us to lose to Crossland,” Long said. “But we pulled together, we did well. We kept up the intensity the whole game.”

Long leads Largo’s athletic core, which is sure to draw interest from college coaches in the years to come, as well as concern from PG County opponents. Able to maneuver inside as well as she is to step back and take a three, Long paces the Lions’ scoring attack with 17 points per game, though it should be noted Coach Ayana Ball-Ward is often able to rest her star late in games that get out of hand quickly.

The small but speedy Cash (10 points per game), a sophomore, and fellow underclassman Stephanie Guihon (11 points per game) slash through defenses in the half-court as easily as they navigate in transition. But the real test, said Cash and Long in unison when asked what games they’re looking forward to, comes Jan. 16 against Gwynn Park (7-2), the perennial PG 3A/2A/1A power loaded with experienced talent likely to play at the next level.

Assuming they keep the in-game pushups to a minimum, the Lions think they’ve got a shot.

“That’ll be a good game,” Long said. “I think we stack up well. We’re matched up well.”

NUMBER CRUNCH: 3

The Lions lost three of their top five leading scorers to graduation last year, including 2012-13 leading scorer Keena Samuels (19 points per game).

BREAKFAST LINKS: 

– The nominees for the 2014 McDonald’s All-American game were announced yesterday. See which area players made the cut.

– Abdulai Bundu and the Largo boys team are also in the midst of a strong season, and picked up another league win last night.

– This week’s Post Top 20 was released Monday. See where your team stands in the rankings this week.

– And here’s this week’s All-Met watch, updated after a crazy couple weeks of holiday tournament action.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: 

Keep an eye out for a matchup of the two top teams in Howard County:  River Hill (7-3) and Oakland Mills (8-1), at Oakland Mills, 5:30 p.m.

VIDEO OF THE DAY:

At the beginning of the season, many would have said a matchup between WCAC rivals Gonzaga and No. 5 DeMatha would have been anybody’s game. But now, with Gonzaga decimated by injuries and DeMatha completely reloaded after a disappointing 2012-13 season, this is what happened Monday night:

Chelsea Janes covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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Chelsea Janes · January 7, 2014

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