Lady Royals Continue Rolling
By David Breidenbach, Correspondent
Feb 7, 2014, 09:44
David Breidenbach/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE—Coming down the stretch in the final three minutes of play in the Royals 77-43 dismantling of Matoaca Thursday night, Prince George’s Ariel Stephenson, their all everything player, had only one concern. She did not want her friend, Jaylen Tweedy, Matoaca’s star point guard, to get the game high score.
With an enormous 66-20 lead going into the fourth quarter, Prince George Coach Billy Gray started platooning his substitutes. By then, Stephenson had 25 of her team high 27 points while they held Tweedy to 10 points.
What a difference a quarter can make.
Playing mostly against Prince George’s second team, Tweedy scored 21 points to finish the game with 31, edging her pal from Prince George by four points. As it became apparent that Tweedy would indeed finish the night with the game high total, Ariel chirped at her from the bench, “If you score 40, I’m going to score 50 next game.”
“They are really good friends. Ariel had to do most of her damage in the first half because she knew she was going to sit some in the second half,” Gray said about the personal competition.
It has been that kind of camaraderie on and off the court that has defined this special year for Prince George, which holds an 18-0 record with four games to play next week. Not only does Stephenson get it done on the court – she scored the team’s first six points against Matoaca – but when she’s on the sidelines she becomes the team’s biggest cheer leader.
One of the reasons the team has been so successful this year has been their chemistry. While Stephenson is an obvious “star” player, she fits into the team like any other cog in a well-oiled machine. In fact, during one offensive set, she stood above the arc and watched her team mates shoot four times and miss from close range. On the fourth offensive rebound, the ball was passed out to her and she calmly canned the three-pointer.
“Ariel is a great team player, she doesn’t hog the ball, she’s part of the team and she plays with the team,” Gray said.
For the Royals’ point guard Jo Jo Taylor, eight assists and seven points, no truer words have ever been said. This year, she said, has been exciting and a lot of fun. Taylor said she and Stephenson and Markia Smith have been playing basketball together since middle school. They have developed a level of trust that only comes with years of playing and years of friendship, she said.
“I love playing with them they are such good team mates. It’s very easy to pass to them. Me, Ariel, and Markia have been playing together since sixth
grade,” Taylor said.
Another big thing with this team is its depth. Even when Stephenson is on the bench, the team doesn’t lack for scoring ability. Smith, who plays forward, scored 14 points for the Royals and Kiara Anderson chipped in 10 more.
“We feel like if we lost any player for a game, a day, or an injury we could still function. We can function without Ariel or anyone else. (Smith) stepped up to the plate tonight, and we’re just going to get better,” Gray said.
As if that isn’t enough, the Royals just got back another “big” in Joycelin Perkins. Back from a broken foot she suffered during the volleyball season, Perkins, 9 rebounds and four points, appears skilled enough to give the Royals yet another threat in the blocks.
“This is only her second game and she only made one practice. She broke her foot playing volleyball and we had to wait for medical release. I think you can see her potential,” Gray said.
Maybe the best thing is that the team will get another year to display their skills at Prince George. All of the players are juniors so Royals fans will have a lot to look forward to when this season comes to an end.
PRINCE GEORGE 77,
MATOACA (7-10) — Tweedy 31, Mueller 2, I. Owens 0, A. Owens 3, Edmond 2, Nix 2, Cox 0, Mascia 0, Harris 0, Phournbugh 2. Totals 17 4-8 42.
PRINCE GEORGE (18-0) — Taylor 7, Washington 5, Bowen 1, Anderson 10, Stephenson 27, Weatherspoon 3, Gardner 1, Smith 14, Brown 2, Bartholow 3, Perkins 4. Totals 33 4-9 77.
Matoaca 10 7 3 22 – 42
Prince George 24 28 14 11 - 77
3-point goals — M: Tweedy 3, A. Owens; PG: Stephenson 3, Taylor, Weatherspoon, Washington, Bartholow.
Highlights — PG: Ariel Stephenson 12 rebounds, 8 assists; Jocelyn Perkins 9 rebounds; Kiara Anderson 5 rebounds; Jo Jo Taylor 8 assists.