Oxon Hill junior guard Denesha Kenion momentarily disappeared as she was engulfed by her teammates Saturday afternoon. The Clippers had stormed the court to celebrate a 54-48 victory over Suitland in the 4A South Region championship that sent Oxon Hill to the state tournament for the second consecutive season.
Kenion was in the middle of that sea of gold and black -- possibly the first time this season she was not visible on the court. Kenion has seized the spotlight much of this season for Oxon Hill, and she did so again against Suitland by scoring 14 of her team-high 19 points in the second-half before making the game's two biggest plays to seal the victory.
As the Clippers clung to a 61-58 lead with 30 seconds remaining, Kenion dribbled the ball into the lane. Instead of taking a shot, the Clippers' leading scorer passed the ball to senior forward Rayven Simms, who had scored just six points in the postseason but converted the open layup for a five-point lead. Four seconds later, Kenion stole a pass on Suitland's inbounds play to ensure the Clippers' second straight regional title.
"The thing about Denesha is that she does not get a lot of credit for her unselfishness and her defense," Oxon Hill Coach Debra Anderson said. "She does a lot more than just score."
Which is not to say Kenion isn't a marquee offensive player. She has scored a team-best 14.2 points per game, but her all-around game also includes five assists and five steals per game.
"Denesha is the heart of our team," Oxon Hill senior guard Cara Hill said. "She knows everybody's strengths and gets them the ball where they can score. We really need her out there."
Ninth-ranked Oxon Hill will need Kenion at her best this weekend if the Clippers are going to accomplish something they have never done: win the Maryland 4A championship. The Clippers have lost in the final in two of the past three seasons, falling to Arundel in 2000 before losing to Churchill, 68-49, last season.
"Winning the county championship and region was nice, but we really haven't won anything yet," Kenion said. "We want to make Oxon Hill history and win the state title. We have talked about it all season, even on the bus ride back from Suitland [after winning the region final]. I believe it's our destiny to win a state championship."
-- Jon Gallo