Unbeaten North Point girls aim higher; Largo, Friendly, Gwynn Park gear up for busy week in Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A
By Greg Schimmel and Eric Detweiler,
North Point girls’ basketball Coach Mike Serpone gathered his team for a postgame huddle Friday night and prepared to scold them for what he considered a lackadaisical effort in their game against archrival Westlake.
It turned out he didn’t have to.
“They were like ‘you don’t even have to say anything,’ because they knew,” Serpone said. “The girls were not satisfied.”
The sixth-ranked Eagles are holding themselves to a higher standard this season, and even a convincing 58-31 win over a perennial Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title contender isn’t necessarily a cause for celebration.
After consecutive trips to the Maryland 4A semifinals the past two seasons, North Point is striving to achieve status as one of the state’s consistently dominant programs.
The Eagles are 9-0 so far and have won their games by an average margin of 44.8 points, but they are more focused on their level of play than on their early results.
“The score at the end of the day doesn’t matter if we’re not playing well enough and not executing well enough,” Serpone said. “I’m glad the kids aren’t satisfied with these wins. They’re looking deeper than the numbers on the scoreboard, which is important.”
North Point features a smaller lineup this year than in past seasons, and has adjusted by trying to play a more up-tempo style and more pressure defense.
Senior guard/forward Tasia Butler — a Syracuse recruit — is scoring a team-high 18 points per game, and senior Chalise Greenwood has thrived this year after switching from point guard to shooting guard.
“We’ve got several kids that understand where they’re at within the team concept,” Serpone said, “and they perform their roles well.”
A chance to play for the first state title in program history looks like a realistic possibility, but as their league schedule opens Wednesday with a tough road game at Chopticon (9-2), the Eagles remain focused on the process, and less on the results.
Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A powers set to meet
Largo girls’ basketball coach Ayana Ball-Ward has kept her players busy on recent holiday breaks, taking the team to tournaments in Virginia, Ohio and New York in consecutive seasons before this year’s trip to the Bojangles Carolina Invitational in Charleston, S.C.
Largo headed south this time with a perfect record and returned with two losses in three games, a humbling experience for a team about to reach its toughest stretch of the league season. Off to a perfect start in Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A play, the Lions (7-2, 6-0) meet Friendly (7-2, 6-0) and Gwynn Park (7-2, 6-0) in the next five days with the league’s top spot at stake. The Patriots and Yellow Jackets will play the first of their two meetings next Tuesday.
“We hadn’t been challenged yet,” Ball-Ward said. “We needed those games to prepare us, mentally and physically, for what’s coming up this week.”
Through the first month of the season, Largo, Friendly and Gwynn Park have distanced themselves from the rest of the league. The perennial powers have breezed through the schedule so far, each winning their first six league games by at least 17 points and often much more.
Largo is led by senior Keena Samuels, who is the league’s leading scorer at 25 points per game, while Gwynn Park has shown more balance with three players averaging at least 11 points per game. Coming off a 19-win season, Friendly relies on a pair of post players to control the paint with senior forwards Chayla Lewis and Janay Carter combining for 28.7 points and 14 rebounds per game.
“I’m fortunate that I’ve got a group of kids on my second unit that could be very competitive with a lot of teams in the league,” said Gwynn Park Coach Michael Strother, whose team plays in the Maryland 2A South with two-time defending state champ Calvert. “We can have some intense scrimmages at practice that can at least help prepare us a little bit to get where we need to be.”
Playing the second season on a two-year league schedule, the teams went through a similar stretch twice a year ago. Gwynn Park breezed past Largo and Friendly in the first round of games only to fall to the Patriots a month later in the regular season finale and miss out on the top seed in the Maryland 2A South playoffs.
All three teams have beefed up their non-league schedules to ensure they are ready when the competition gets tougher, but the unbalanced schedule provides a unique challenge with back-to-back rivalry games before the league opponents cycle through again.
“We’re just ready to play,” Ball-Ward said. “I’ll be glad when this week is over.”
Related: The Post Top 20 All-Met Watch: A look at the area’s top players Area-wide girls’ basketball schedule Team pages: North Point | Largo | Friendly | Gwynn Park