Largo High School senior Candace Sutton dominates a basketball court as soon as she steps onto the floor. A 6-foot-5 center, she is nearly always the tallest person and the focus of everyone's attention.
Sutton was the key player in eighth-ranked Largo's 53-49 victory over No. 5 Suitland last night. She was at her best in the second half, when the host Lions erased an 11-point halftime deficit: The All-Met center scored 13 points of her 18 points, grabbed five of her 12 rebounds, and had six of her seven blocked shots in the final two quarters.
"Our coach told us [at halftime] to concentrate more on getting the ball inside," said Largo senior point guard Adrienne Harris, who finished with 12 points. "Our goal was to get the ball into Candace. No one has her height, and no one plays the way she plays. Even if she's double or triple-teamed, she can kick the ball our and we'll hit our outside shots."
Suitland (6-2) and Largo (8-1) have combined to win the past three Maryland 4A state titles, with the Rams winning the championship in 1998 and 1999. The two schools have shared the Prince George's County 4A league title the past two seasons.
Last night's victory, though early in the season, was significant for Largo, since the Lions' past two seasons have ended with losses to Suitland in the regional tournament.
"I think that this win sets the tone for the season," Sutton said. "For us to beat Suitland, who we know is one of the top teams, is important. Everyone is still going to come at us, but we know that we can win."
Suitland led 31-20 at halftime, but the Lions scored 11 straight points in the opening minutes of the third quarter to tie the score. Largo's plan was obvious--the Lions focused on working the ball inside to Sutton and 6-1 senior forward Andrea House, who combined to score eight points in that four-minute run. Defensively, Sutton had three blocked shots in that span.
"That's typical of Candace," Largo Coach Bob Blair said. "Offensive players have to work very hard to get their shot because they realize that she's there."
Notes: Suitland senior guard KiKi Wimbush (17 points) limped off the court with 4 minutes 11 seconds left in the game after landing awkwardly on her right ankle. One minute later, Wimbush, who leads the Rams with 22.3 points per game, was back in the game. . . . The Rams, who were a combined 47-3 the past two seasons, have a two-game losing streak.