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Royals Get Defensive, Throttle Knights
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Jan 31, 2013, 15:38

CHESTER – It all happened so fast.

One minute, the Thomas Dale girls basketball team was lurking within striking distance in a Central District game against Prince George. The next they were decidedly out of contention.

Buoyed by a seemingly endless stream of steals and subsequent fastbreak buckets, the visiting Royals started the second half with a 24-6 surge and cruised to a 75-41 rout of the Knights on Tuesday in Chester.

“Our defense gets our transition game going,” said Prince George coach Billy Gray. “We also played the 2-3 zone, and I thought we played that really well. But when we’re doing our trapping and pressing, a lot of things can happen for us.”

Thomas Dale senior Kazhana Joyce (5) pushes the ball upcourt as Prince George's Tyrah Washington (31) defends on Tuesday in Chester (photo by David Breidenbach).
Senior DaZhane Myler scored a game-high 22 points for Prince George and tacked on a slew of rebounds and steals along the way.

Her free throw gave the Royals a 7-3 lead with 3:18 remaining in the opening frame, but the Knights awoke from their slumber to notch five of the next seven points.

Thomas Dale senior Kazhana Joyce reduced the deficit to one with a backcourt steal, spin and acrobatic finish that made the score 9-8, but that was as close as the home team came.

Myler’s fastbreak bucket on the ensuing possession sparked a 19-6 run for the Royals. The pattern of catch and release persisted, however, as Thomas Dale reeled their green-clad guests back in with a 7-0 burst that left the Knights trailing 28-21 with 1:33 left in the first half.

True to form, Myler restored her team’s double-digit cushion with an old-fashioned three-point play seconds later.

The Royals took a 36-23 advantage into the locker room at halftime. Myler and Prince George sophomore Ariel Stephenson combined to outscore Thomas Dale by themselves in the first 16 minutes, pouring in 14 and 10 points, respectively.

“We just didn’t play as well as we should have in the first half,” Gray said. “But we played better in the second quarter than we did in the first.”

The improvement continued in the third quarter. Prince George’s tenacious defense, which was increasingly troublesome in the first half, found another gear in the second.

Paced by Myler, Stephenson and sophomore JoJo Taylor, the Royals befuddled the Knights’ ball handlers with a medley of full-court pressure and well-disguised ball traps in the halfcourt.

The aggressiveness paid dividends.

The Royals started the third quarter with a 12-0 run and held the Knights to two field goals in the lop-sided frame, making the result a formality by quarter’s end. Prince George led 60-32 at the onset of the final stanza.

Gray said his players “turned it on” after halftime.

“The in-bounds press that we do worked really well,” Gray explained. “The kids hustled there for a little while, and we had hands on every ball that was thrown in. That’s what you want to see.”

The key to Prince George’s success this season will be harnessing that assertiveness, according to the team’s veteran coach.

“We know we have that capability in any quarter,” Gray said. “It’s just a matter of showing up and doing it.”

The Royals abandoned the press in the fourth quarter, opting instead for a 2-3 zone defense. But the tactical shift didn’t matter much. Thomas Dale could only muster nine points off two field goals in the final frame.

The final margin – provided by Keanna Pender’s fastbreak layup in the last minute – was Prince George’s largest lead of the game.

Stephenson finished with 15 points while Tayla Smith tallied 10 and Tyrah Washington nine for Prince George. Gray identified Myler and Smith – the only two seniors in the team’s starting lineup – as calming influences on the sophomore-laden squad.

“DaZhane and Tayla kind of lead us,” Gray said. “They do a lot to get things going out there, and then JoJo and Ariel step up to the plate and take care of what they’re supposed to do, too. I also thought Tyrah Washington had a fantastic game.”

Joyce made seven of her 11 free throws and led the Knights with 13 points while Makeese Bell chipped in with 11.

PGHS: 11 25 24 15 – 75
TDHS: 8 15 9 9 – 41

PRINCE GEORGE: Pender 6, Taylor 2, Weatherspoon 6, Myler 22, Stephenson 15, Hunter 0, Washington 9, T. Smith 10, M. Smith 0, Bowen 5, Brown 0. Totals: 31 9-18 75. 3-pointers: Weatherspoon 2, Washington, Bowen.

THOMAS DALE: Flowers 0, Joyce 13, Waring 6, Millard 0, McElroy 0, Edwards 0, Monroe 5, Hector 2, Bell 11, Banks 4, Tischler 0. Totals: 12 14-23 41. 3-pointers: Bell 2, Monroe.

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