For 31 minutes, Aberdeen High girls’ basketball team played well enough to win the Class 3A state championship Saturday night.
However, it was the final 60 seconds that the No. 2 Eagles will remember. Frederick made the right plays in crunch time to pull off a 76-71 win at UMBC’s The RAC.
The Eagles (23-2) turned the ball over three times in last minute of regulation as the Cadets (22-4) scored the final six points of the game to win its first state championship. Lauren Tolson led Frederick with a game-high 24 points.
Tolson hit two free throws with 1:01 left in the fourth quarter to give the Cadets a 70-67 advantage. On the ensuing Eagles possession, senior Ayana Stewart drained a three-pointer to tie the game.
Aberdeen forced a Frederick turnover, and got to the free throw line where T.K. Fowlkes converted on her first free throw for a 71-70 lead. Her second attempt waived off due to a lane violation.
The Eagles wouldn’t score again as they struggled to regain possession. Frederick made four free throws in 38 seconds to take a three-point advantage. With 12 seconds left, Stewart found some day light beyond the three-point arc, but missed her attempt. The ball deflected off Bri Jones and into the hands of Nia Alleyne who fired an off-balanced three-pointer that ricocheted out of bounds, ending Aberdeen’s hopes of a first state championship.
“The pressure from the other team, unfortunately, that’s when we panic we got to square up and look in the middle, they killed us,” said Aberdeen coach Stacey Liles. “We knew that they had pressure.”
“We rarely run into teams that run just like us, they we one of them and they did it really well,” said Alleyne who finished with 12 points. “Their pace really hit us and it took us a minute to get used to it and we got used to it a little too late.”
The title game started out with a frantic pace and continued to get more hectic with each passing second as the game featured 13 ties and 16 lead changes. Frederick applied full-court pressure the entire game forcing a young Eagle squad to make snap decisions. Aberdeen was tripped up early by Frederick and committed seven turnovers in the first quarter.
Even with the miscues, the Eagles weathered the Cadet’s defense storm and anchored themselves with the performance of Jones. The 6-foot-3 sophomore center scored 15 of her 27 game-high points in the first half as well as 13 rebounds for the game.
Frederick’s veteran backcourt of seniors Lynasia Frazier (19 points five assists) and Rachel Johnson (16 points) were able to create separation and get wide open looks against Aberdeen’s man-to-man defense. Aberdeen was able to break through the Cadet defense in later stages of the game as Jimma McClucksey (13 points) and Fowlkes (10 points) broke through to snatch the lead away from Frederick multiple times in the second half.
But the Eagles couldn’t come with the plays in the final seconds. With a young roster, Saturday’s disappointment will serve as motivation next season.
“The whole season was fun, I just wish we could have won states and brought it back to our fans who came out and supported us,” said Stewart.
“I definitely think that we can be back, but you got to work at, it’s not easy and everyone wants it just as much as us,” said Liles. “They’re a great group of girls, the chemistry on this team I couldn’t ask for anything more than what they gave.”