As the music blared at Bowie High School just before tipoff of No. 10 C.H. Flowers and No. 19 Bowie Tuesday night, Flowers coach Patrice Watson turned to the huddle with the same smile she’d displayed through some pregame dance moves and delivered her team’s simple motto for the night.
“Let’s have fun and play hard,” she told her team, which clapped and smiled in keeping with Watson’s pregame levity.
Just as they were about to break the huddle, Watson turned back, looking worried her Jaguars might have missed the point:
“Y’all better play hard, though!”
The Jaguars did both, forcing turnovers, hurling themselves at loose balls and earning often bruising rebounds to make a usually ultra-emotional rivalry matchup with the Bulldogs an almost comfortable evening in a 63-53 win.
“That was actually fun,” said Jaguars’ junior De’Janae Boykin, citing the difference between Tuesday’s game and the teams’ last meeting, a 55-50 Jaguars win in the season opener, in which emotions on both sides bubbled into game-long grudges. “Last time, we had those first-time jitters. This time, we just played.”
Boykin turned in a double-double by halftime and finished with 21 points, 23 rebounds and six blocks. Her seven second-quarter points sparked the Jaguars to a 12-0 run that turned an even game after eight minutes into a 12-point game at halftime.
Bowie (12-5, 9-3 in Prince George’s 4A) made sure Flowers (11-1, 11-1) had to heed Watson’s pregame warning. By the end of the third quarter, the lead was in single digits, and closed to as little as one midway through the fourth quarter. The teams exchanged possessions with frantic turnover rallies, often resulting in hotly contested jump balls or players diving to maintain possession.
Neither Boykin nor her teammates played without mistakes, but the Jaguars scrapped their way to a few more rebounds, pestered their opponents into a few more mistakes, and hit a few more tough shots than did the Bulldogs throughout the evening. Most significantly, it seemed the entire roster heeded Watson’s “play hard” warning, as Flowers got points from seven different scorers and had four players score eight or more. When Boykin was pushed out of a play, Sierra Eggleston hit big shots on her way to 16 points.
Midway through the second half came a moment that embodied the Jaguars’ evening of turning imperfection to success with the hard work Watson demanded.
As Flowers tried to distance itself after Bowie had closed its lead to one, Kameryn Robinson missed the second of two free throws, but charged through the packed paint to grab her own rebound. She then tossed it toward the rim while falling away, providing a much-needed three points from a possession that looked doomed to yield just one.
Asked after the game whose effort in particular made a difference, Boykin and guard Sierra Eggleston looked at each other and named Robinson simultaneously.
“Kameryn’s really stepped up,” Eggleston said. “Not just scoring, but rebounding, boxing out, and defense.”
Efforts like Robinson’s on the boards and crucial finishes from Nicole Hill (eight points), helped turn mistakes into points and push Flowers ahead of its rival by two games for second place in the Prince George’s County 4A standings.