There was a celebratory but calm demeanor that embodied the Joppatowne High girls’ basketball team and its fans after an impressive 69-34 win against Harford Tech in the Class 1A North Region title game Saturday afternoon. The Mariners, who reached the state Final Four last year for the first time, are the hunted as they look to defend their title at UMBC next week.

“All of the newspapers are saying everyone [who won it all] last year is out, it feels like everyone is looking at us to win,” said Joppatowne senior guard Pez Scott.

“It’s crazy, we went through so much stuff to get here this year and we’ve been working so hard and it just feels good,” said Mariners’ junior forward Shakara Head.

Two weeks ago, Joppatowne (23-1 overall) squeezed out a 63-50 win over Harford Tech (21-3) in the UCBAC title game at Edgewood. Mariners’ coach Michael Harris had a feeling that his talented squad would see the Cobras again.

“We knew that there were some things that we wanted to do that we did not want to show at the up back game,” said Harris. “We pulled offensive sets back, we pulled defenses that we wanted to run and we didn’t go into our best match-ups.”

Joppatowne pulled no punches in the rematch Saturday, leading wire-to-wire.

“We knew that we had to better prepare ourselves and we knew we couldn’t let up on them because we knew that they were going to make runs,” said Head. “We just made sure that we were focused and not to underestimate our opponent.”

Scott and Head fueled a 12-4 run for the Mariners in the first six minutes of the game as they both had five points apiece. Joppatowne kicked both their offensive and defensive games into high gear, forcing 12 Cobra turnovers and outscored Harford Tech, 31-6, in the second quarter.

“We played a championship quality team out there today,” said Harford Tech coach Steve Tanribilir. “They [Harford Tech] achieved everything we set before them this and I couldn’t be any more proud of them.”

“Our big people are so smart by jumping in the lanes and denying and I told our guards that if you get putting pressure on their guards that we can really difficult for them to get into the flow of their offense,” said Harris. “From that we got into a position where we could run and we are tough to deal with.”

joppatowne girls basketballHead had a game-high 18 points and nabbed eight rebounds for the Mariners with Scott finishing with 11 points and five assist in the victory. Joppatowne’s Kourtney Lewis Orr had a double-double with 10 points and 12 boards and Lekiah Huff come off the bench, scoring 10 points.

“I just made sure that I cleaned up the boards for the team and I knew that they depend on me so I just made sure that finished when I got in the lane,” said Head on her performance.

“She’s just a strong and fierce competitor, the harder the game the harder she fights,” said Harris about Head’s performance.

Joppatowne will take on Dunbar, a 60-52 winner over Surrattsville in the South Region finals Saturday, either Wednesday or Friday at the RAC. The Mariners have won 42 of their last 43 decisions.

“We just got to practice, practice, practice, we got do what do best because everyone else has regionals just like us and is ready to win, said Scott.