TOWSON, Md. — C.H. Flowers guard Kaniyah Harris trotted down a hallway, sat for a postgame interview and placed her head on a table.
“Sleep is what I need,” Harris said.
In the Maryland 4A semifinals at Towson University’s SECU Arena on Thursday, Harris guided the Jaguars’ up-tempo offense while recording game highs in points (24) and rebounds (14), so the junior had good reason to feel fatigued following a 53-49 win over Western.
Behind Harris, No. 11 C.H. Flowers reached its first Maryland 4A title game, turning back a Baltimore foe. The Jaguars (24-2), who have won 16 straight, will face Old Mill on Saturday afternoon at SECU Arena.
“From last year compared to this year, she has definitely grown into one the biggest leaders I’ve played with and been friends with,” forward Jasmine Hilton said about Harris.
First-year C.H. Flowers coach Rod Hairston had experience on this stage, having won five state championships at Eleanor Roosevelt from 1998 to 2010. His players couldn’t reflect on those experiences, though, as the team finished .500 last season.
Hairston first noticed Harris when she was in fifth grade at a local basketball showcase, and she was one of the main reasons he wanted to coach the Prince George’s County school.
“I had no clue she would play as tough as she has this year,” Hairston said.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the Jaguars facing a two-point deficit, Harris grouped her teammates together near their sideline and encouraged them to relax.
About four minutes later, Harris provided C.H. Flowers its first lead since the opening quarter with a layup, on which she was fouled and converted the ensuing free throw. The Jaguars didn’t give up the lead after that.
Hairston said his squad tries to exhaust its opponent, and Harris led the Jaguars’ aggressive style by shooting 20 free throws. C.H. Flowers attempted 26 more free throws than Western (22-5). Western Coach Latasha Townsend called the officiating “ridiculous.”
“Coming into this game, I realized we’ve been putting in work since August,” Harris said. “I wasn’t ready to let that work go to waste. . . . Even when we were missing shots, we were like, ‘We can’t leave the court knowing we could’ve done something else.’ ”
That mind-set is a trait Harris’s coach appreciates.
Moments after the final buzzer, Hairston performed a three-slap handshake with Harris. Then, sitting next to Harris at the postgame news conference, Hairston lauded his star player’s development.
“She’s a tremendous person,” Hairston said. “I’m totally impressed with her.”
“Thank you, coach,” Harris responded.
Turning his head toward Harris, Hairston added: “That’s my girl.”