FORT WASHINGTON – Loose ball dives, trash talking and intentional contact. And that was just in the first half of Tuesday night’s showdown between the ladies of Friendly and Largo.
With a chance at remaining in first place in the Prince George’s 3A division on the line, the Friendly Lady Patriots knew this was one home game they couldn’t afford to give away. They almost did, but survived a blown double-digit first-quarter lead to hold on and trump the Lady Lions 56-54 on Tuesday at Friendly.
In a battle between two seniors, Largo’s Derica Souder (24 points) and Friendly’s Nakita Gray (21 points), it was the latter that came away the victor in a hard-fought game.
A fast start pushed Friendly (9-2, 8-0) to a 14-4 lead in the first quarter but behind Souder’s big night, the Lions (6-4, 6-1) charged back. Largo took its first lead of the game 38-37 on Souder’s layup in the third quarter and the teams would trade blows for the remainder of the game before Friendly regained control.
“It’s a great win for our young people,” Friendly coach Carroll Holmes said. “We told our kids the game wasn’t over and to keep playing great defense and come up with loose [balls]. “We fought hard and played against a well-coached team and fought until the end. I’m very proud.”
With their early lead all but evaporated, Friendly was able to lean on a big second half from Gray. The team put the ball in her hands and Gray put the Patriots in the win column.
“She’s fabulous,” Holmes added. “She played tough, she played aggressive and she’s one of our top players.”
A 3-pointer from junior Pats guard Breanna Brown gave Friendly its last lead of the night at 51-50 with just over three minutes left in the game. From there, the Patriots watched pleasantly as Largo rattled out clutch free throws that could’ve easily given them back the lead.
“It came down to clutch plays at the end,” Largo coach Ayana Ball-Ward said. “They made their free throws and we didn’t.”
After the game, a dejected Souder was visibly upset as she walked towards the locker room. With a chance to take the lead with Friendly leading 55-54 with just seconds remaining, her attempted pass on a three-on-one fast break ricocheted out of bounds and gave the Patriots the ball back.
“She’s heartbroken because she passed up a layup and actually got us a turnover when we could’ve gone up by one,” Ball-Ward revealed. “I just let her know that sometimes you have to be selfish [and I told her] to keep her head up. We’ll get the next one.”
CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH FRIENDLY'S NAKITA GRAY.