It was a good end to the school week for Paul VI’s Ashley Owusu.
On Thursday, Owusu was named to the McDonald’s all-American game. Panthers Coach Scott Allen made a surprise announcement at the end of practice, and the senior was mobbed by ecstatic teammates.
On Friday night, she showed why she deserved one of the 24 spots bestowed to the best girls’ basketball players in the country as she scored 22 points and led the No. 10 Panthers to a 69-60 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference win over No. 11 Bishop Ireton.
“Everyone’s just been so happy for me; it’s been great,” Owusu said.
Owusu, a Maryland signee, said she tried to watch Thursday’s announcement, but the girls’ rosters weren’t shown in time before practice. Allen said he could tell his star was nervous as they ran layup lines because she missed a few.
This is the second year in a row Paul VI has had a player in the annual all-American game; forward Mimi Collins was selected last season. The losses of Collins, who now plays at Tennessee, and guard Kate Klimkiewicz (Boston College) loomed large at the start of this season as the Panthers needed young players to step up and help Owusu navigate the ever-competitive WCAC.
“You don’t want them to start staring because Ashley has the ball and everyone says go make a play,” Allen said of the underclassmen. “People are smart. They’re just not going to allow her to do everything. So you try to get them to be as confident as they can. If you’re open and that’s a good shot for you, you have to take that shot.”
Paul VI (16-5, 8-2) started two freshmen Friday, and there were times when the Panthers seemed rattled by the aggressiveness and athleticism of Ireton. The Cardinals (16-5, 9-3), who have not beaten Paul VI in over a decade, came out with a feisty press and shot well from three. Senior guard Sydney Peters hit three consecutive three-pointers out of the halftime break, giving the Cardinals an 11-point lead.
But Owusu and the Panthers remained calm, tying it up by the start of the fourth quarter. From there, the all-American provided steady scoring, and her team tightened up its perimeter defense. Sophomore Bella Perkins added 13 points, and freshman Jaelyn Talley had 11.
“It’s been a lot different this year,” Owusu said. “But without many upperclassmen, it teaches us seniors to step up and work together and basically take control of the team on the court.”