No. 2 Aberdeen High raced away from 15th ranked Hereford, 71-32, to win the Class 3A North Region girls’ basketball championship Saturday evening in Parkton.
Sophomore center Bri Jones scored a game-high 28 points for Aberdeen (23-1 overall), which earned its first state Final Four berth since 2003. The Harford County school will play Largo from Prince George’s County in a state semifinal Thursday evening at 9 p.m. at UMBC.
Seeking its first state Final Four since 1999, Hereford (22-2) trailed by 12 points at halftime. The Bulls had some measure of optimism after having difficulty handling Aberdeen’s press along with a host of missed shots from close range and string of frustrating turnovers.
But those mistakes continued to haunt the Baltimore County champs as the Eagles’ suffocating defense held them to six points in the third quarter. Jones scored 18 of her game-high 28 in the quarter as Aberdeen led 45-18 entering the fourth.
“My teammates moved the ball around and created space to get passes inside,” said Jones. “We worked on moving the ball around to create open shots and our guards, who work hard on their dribbling and passing, know how to get the ball to me.”
With juniors Lakeia Hayden and Nia Alleyne, senior Ayana Stewart and sophomore Jimmia McCluskey’s crisp passing and smart spacing on offense, along with their great hustle on defense which created a plethora of deflections and steals, the Aberdeen perimeter play on both sides of the ball was just as effective as Jones’ scoring and rugged interior defensive play. Hayden and Alleyne added 11 points apiece for the Eagles.
“We have some smart girls on the outside and they can shoot well,” said Aberdeen coach Stacey Liles. “Plus, they know how to look inside. They know that if defenders double down on us on the inside, that their shots are going to be open for them on the outside.”
Jones accumulated her 18 third-quarter points in a remarkable five-minute spurt. She exhibited an arsenal of tough put-backs off of offensive rebounds, drop steps and advanced spin moves in the paint, and a nuanced use of the backboard on difficult layups, turnaround hooks and close-range jump shots in traffic.
“In the first half, I thought we did a good job of putting pressure on their guards to not allow the pass into the post and when it did get in there, we doubled down quickly,” said Hereford first-year coach Ellen Fitzkee. “In the second half, they did a nice job of lobbing the ball in to Bri and she’s just tough to guard. You cannot guard her one-on-one.”
Aberdeen outscored Hereford, 47-20, over the final 16 minutes to punch its ticket to the RAC. The Eagles will face off with state Final Four veteran Largo (23-1), which won its third straight South Region title with a 72-48 rout of Friendly.
“The better team obviously won today,” said Fitzkee of Aberdeen. “If there’s a better team in 3A, I’d like to see it because if it’s not that team, I don’t know who it is.”