Maryland 2A girls
Gwynn Park girls lose in 2A state final, 58-53, to Fallston
CATONSVILLE, MD. -- An infusion of talented freshmen was one of the main reasons why Gwynn Park made it all the way to the Maryland 2A girls' final. And midway through the fourth quarter of the Yellow Jackets' battle with defending 3A champion Fallston on Saturday afternoon, that youthful exuberance had No. 17 Gwynn Park with a lead and on the cusp of its first state title since 2004.
Freshman point guard Genesis Lucas stole a pass from Fallston's Jess Harlee and took it coast-to-coast for a layup to put Gwynn Park ahead by one with less than four minutes remaining. It was the Yellow Jackets' last lead of the game, however, as the veteran Cougars showed their championship pedigree down the stretch and pulled away for a 58-53 victory at UMBC's RAC Arena.
But in defeat, the Yellow Jackets offered a glimpse of what may be in the years ahead. With a starting lineup featuring just one senior and two freshmen, Gwynn Park (21-4) never backed down in a game that had nine lead changes and eight ties. Junior Channell Mackey finished with a team-high 14 points, while eight Yellow Jackets had at least one field goal.
"We just play basketball, we don't think about age or grade," Lucas said. "We just came here and tried to get the win."
It showed throughout as neither team led by more than four points until the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.
Early on it was 6-foot-2 freshman Caira Washington (11 points, nine rebounds), who scored four quick points to help Gwynn Park overcome any early jitters and enter halftime tied at 27.
Then Mackey, a transfer from Holy Cross, hit two long three-pointers to start the second half as both teams exchanged leads through the beginning of the fourth quarter. It seemed, though, momentum might be changing for good when Lucas (10 points) finished off her steal and score.
But Harlee, a West Virginia recruit who returned eight games ago from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, proved to be too much in crunch time. She finished with a game-high 18 points, including six clutch free throws late, and 19 rebounds for Fallston (20-5).
Afterwards, as he watched his freshmen dab away tears while speaking with reporters, Gwynn Park Coach Michael Strother reminded them just how far they'd come and how much more they could accomplish in the future. Gwynn Park's three leading scorers weren't even with the team last year when it went 11-13.
"We'll be back," he said before turning to talk directly with his players. "You have no reason to hold your head low because you fought to the last whistle."