March 8, 2018 at 4:38 PM
After the whistle blew to start what Edison hoped would be its first Virginia Class 5 girls’ basketball state championship in team history, Princess Anne’s cheerleaders, situated next to the Eagles’ basket, broke into a chant.
While the Cavaliers opened Thursday’s game in the Siegel Center in Richmond with smothering defensive press and elusive speed in transition on offense, they repeated Princess Anne’s mantra.
“We don’t mess around,” the cheerleaders yelled between claps. “No, we don’t mess around.”
Princess Anne ensured that rang true throughout the contest, handing No. 13 Edison a 61-45 loss on Virginia Commonwealth University campus, and ensuring their dynasty from Virginia Beach added a fifth straight state championship to its repertoire.
“Especially at the beginning, you could tell the tempo would be much faster than usual,” Edison guard Charlotte Jewell said. “I think we got used to it as the game went on, but it probably just took us by surprise in the beginning.”
The Eagles “expected a challenge,” coming in, forward Carole Miller said, as Princess Anne had been to 10 straight championship games and touts multiple Division I prospects.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we knew they’re not unbeatable,” Miller said. “We just took it as it came and just stayed composed.”
After the Cavaliers took a 19-8 lead into the start of the second quarter, Edison settled in. Miller, who led the game with 20 points, and Jewell combined for all of the Eagles’ 12 points in the second period to outscore Princess Anne by 2.
And after halftime, Edison cut its deficit to six points with about six minutes left in the third quarter.
But that’s when the Cavaliers started their 16-5 run to close the frame. Guard Jasha Clinton led the Cavaliers with 17 points, while forward Brianna Jackson had 12 points and 15 rebounds.
“I don’t think they were ready for our speed,” Princess Anne Coach Darnell Dozier said, “because we have speed that’s really outrageous.”
Edison doesn’t have a true post player, Coach Dianne Lewis said, and instead uses guards to defend opponents’ top frontcourt players. That, plus Princess Anne’s guards spreading the ball so well, Lewis said, didn’t allow the Eagles to execute their typical press defense. Instead, Edison tried to use more 2-3 zone formations.
“We ran more zone this game than the entire year,” Lewis said.
“We don’t run 2-3,” Jewell quipped after her coach. “Never.”
Jewell, a sophomore, and Miller, a junior, didn’t hang their heads while at the podium after the game.
Though the Eagles lose four seniors from this year’s team, they expect to return next season with experience and motivation from Edison’s first trip to the state final in a decade to earn a first-place trophy.
“It’s a great boost in our heads,” Jewell said. “I think in the seniors’ heads too, because they know we’ll come back and try again, and we feel confident about next season. We know what it’s like now, and we know what we need to work on.”