Gwynn Park guard Chantelle Gross has grown to admire the efficiency of her coach, Mike Strother, who doesn’t seem to waste time and is always looking to put his inventive plays to work. But even Gross and her teammates were surprised when Strother called a timeout with 35 seconds left in Friday night’s game against Crossland. The starters were already on the bench, a reward for building a 21-point lead against the exhausted Cavaliers.
Strother grabbed a chair from the sideline and sat in the middle of the huddle, his players intently listening as if the game were tied. He introduced a wild, crisscrossing, out-of-bounds play, which didn’t yield any points. But it could be an important play and lesson in the near future for Gwynn Park, which looked as though it was ready to start a serious late-season run on Friday night.
“We can be down, or we can be up,” Gross said, “and we’ll just come out, and sometimes we’ll do A,B,C, and sometimes we’ll do X,Y and Z.”
Gross scored 20 points and added four steals, and fellow guard Takayla Ellis added 17 to lift the Yellow Jackets to a 76-62 win over upstart Crossland in a Prince George’s County 3A/2A/1A matchup in Brandywine.
Gwynn Park (14-2, 12-1 in Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A) posted four starters in double figures and hit eight three-pointers in its fourth straight win, with Gross providing three of the three-pointers. Her second came in the middle of the second quarter to give the Yellow Jackets a 26-10 lead, but Crossland (11-5, 10-3) stayed in the game with a 11-0 run keyed by Uniqek Miller (18 points). But the Yellow Jackets responded with transition points from Tashina Cardwell (12 points) on back-to-back possessions, and Ellis’s runner right before the halftime buzzer built a 35-23 lead. Crossland didn’t get closer than 11 points in the second half.
The Cavaliers entered the night as one of the county’s hottest teams, winning six in a row. But even with Miller, Jewel Ledbetter and Alexis Welch combining for 47 points, Crossland’s matchup zone had no answer for the outside shooting and transition game of Gwynn Park.
“We just had to swing the ball more, and then get a rhythm and shoot it,” Ellis said. “And when we did, they went in.”
Strother said Thursday’s practice was the best of the season, and he sensed that his team was getting into a postseason mindset on Friday. He was certainly teaching his team all the way until the final buzzer, which sent the message that the second and third unit need to be prepared for anything come late February.
“The fact that we got to play as a team, we’ve been struggling to do that all year, and we finally got our stuff together,” Gross said. “I really was impressed with the team.”