Second-Seeded Royals Escape Crimson Wave
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Feb 8, 2013, 13:47
PRINCE GEORGE – The Petersburg High School girls basketball team trailed Prince George by 15 points at halftime but whittled the deficit to five in the fourth quarter, turning the Central District contest from blowout to shootout.
Then the visiting Crimson Wave ran out of ammunition.
Paced by 24 points from Ariel Stephenson and 17 from DaZhane Myler, Prince George awoke from its late-game slumber to win 57-43 on Thursday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Prince George sophomore Ariel Stephenson (25) dribbles in transition as Petersburg freshman Raven Williams gives chase on Thursday in Prince George (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
“Petersburg’s a pretty good team,” said Prince George coach Billy Gray. “We didn’t play as well as we should have, but we played well enough to win it.”
Stephenson – who ESPN ranks as the nation’s No. 25 recruit in the class of 2015 – had a lot to do with the final result.
The 5-foot-11 sophomore finished one assist shy of a triple-double, racking up 15 rebounds, nine assists and five steals in addition to her season-high point tally.
Stephenson scored eight of her team’s 10 points in the penultimate frame, when the visitors were doing everything they could to shift the momentum in their favor. Her off-balance jumper restored the Royals’ double-digit cushion at the third-quarter buzzer, making the score 43-33 at the onset of the fourth.
“At certain points in the game, I just feel like I have to take over,” Stephenson said. “I think my teammates understand that, and I just try to do whatever I can to help the team.”
All four of Stephenson’s fellow starters had a tough time staying on the court. Sophomores Tyrah Washington and Jo-Jo Taylor fouled out in the second half while seniors Myler and Tayla Smith were whistled for four infractions. The Royals’ foul trouble was a by-product of their unrelenting defensive pressure.
The same tactic fueled a 12-0 run for the home team in the second quarter, but Gray said sloppy execution made his team’s ball traps and fullcourt pressure less effective in the second half.
“Instead of hustling on defense, we reached and got there late,” Gray said. “We went over their backs and stuff like that, and that’s probably the first time all year that we’ve done that.”
The Crimson Wave took full advantage of the miscues.
Sophomore Kamaria Green, who led Petersburg with 11 points, converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 1:41 left in the third, sparking a 19-6 run. The surge concluded with a steal and fastbreak layup from Khaila Ellis that reduced the gap to 45-40 in the early stages of the fourth.
“Petersburg made several charges and we were able to answer those,” Gray said. “But they went on a shooting streak. They didn’t miss many in a row for a while.”
Prince George scored the next seven points, however, and closed with a 12-3 run to provide the final margin.
Petersburg coach Robert Claiborne said the game would have been even more contentious if Stephenson had not made 14 of her 17 shots from the free throw line. In the end, the veteran coach said the combination of Stephenson and Myler proved to be too potent for his team to overcome.
“I think we’re gelling right now,” Claiborne said. “But when you’re playing against dominate players like [Stephenson] and [Myler], it’s pretty hard to stop them.”
Sophomore Beosha Gregory scored 10 points for the Crimson Wave, who will enter next week’s district tournament as the No. 3 seed. Second-seeded Prince George will meet No. 7 Hopewell in the first round on Tuesday at Matoaca High School.
PHS: 12 6 15 10 – 43
PGHS: 12 21 10 14 – 57
PETERSBURG: Gregory 10, Knight 3, S. Ellis 2, Scott 2, Fitzgerald 0, K. Ellis 7, Tucker 0, Green 11, Williams 6, Alexander 2. Totals: 15 13-19 43.
PRINCE GEORGE: Pender 2, Taylor 1, Weatherspoon 3, Myler 17, Stephenson 24, T. Smith 8, Bowen 2. Totals: 18 20-25 57. 3-pointer: Weatherspoon.