SILVER SPRING – Blake High School’s girls basketball team has one goal on its mind this season, and that is to compete for respect.
The Bengals are young this season; the team’s nucleus features four sophomores and one freshman. When Blake hosted the 3-0 Laurel High School from Prince George’s County on Dec. 13, the Bengals started the game strongly and gave the Spartans all they could handle. Laurel had to overcome a 10-point deficit and several ties to earn the 48-35 win.
Blake’s quest for respect led the Bengals (1-1) to a strong opening quarter despite two early turnovers. Laurel didn’t complete a single basket for the first five minutes of the game, and by the time the Spartans finally scored, Blake had built a double-digit lead. Sophomore guard Raina Coleman was instrumental in helping to develop her team’s lead as she stole the ball away from the Spartans and drove down the court. Coleman scored five of her eight points in the first quarter.
“I give credit to them, they were doing what they wanted to do to us,” said Laurel Head Coach Michael Hines. “We kind of were just somewhere else, I think. I don’t want to take it away from (Blake); they played really well. We had two games that were not as difficult as this one.”
The Spartans managed just one layup and one free throw in the first eight minutes of the game, but the tide turned rapidly in their favor in the second quarter. Laurel held Blake to just two baskets and outscored the Bengals 18-5. The Spartans netted most of those game-changing points at the free-throw line; players like sophomore Marissa Steel and junior Ajanae Boucher-Wright drove to the basket and pulled fouls.
The numbers on Laurel’s side of the scoreboard kept ticking closer and closer to matching the digits on Blake’s side until a layup from Boucher-Wright gave the game its first tie. A few seconds later, a jumper by senior forward Franxine Cooper put the Spartans in the lead heading into halftime.
Blake sophomore Eve Weeks opened the second half with a game-tying 3-point basket. The Bengals briefly regained the lead on a Spartans turnover before Laurel freshman guard Cassidy Johnson grabbed a defensive rebound and drove down the court for another game-tying bucket. Johnson flexed her arms in celebration as Spartans fans rejoiced in the stands.
Johnson’s layup seems to invigorate her team, and the Spartans started to pull away with the lead. Coleman tried to force a turnover again and went to the ground to make a play. Despite Coleman’s best efforts, though, the Spartans stayed on offense for most of the fourth quarter.
Blake sophomore Nadia Wilson finished the game with eight points; all of them earned in the fourth quarter. Wilson and Weeks were the only Bengals to score in the final quarter. However, the Spartans returned to the formula that had made their second quarter so successful. Laurel generated nine points at the free-throw line to remain undefeated.
“I feel like it was a pretty rough game, but we fought through it at the end,” said Coleman. “We just stuck together as a team this whole game. I hope that we learn through the games that we lost. If we learn from that experience and what we can improve on, maybe we can get some wins.”
Blake Head Coach Kenneth Prather stated that the Bengals are working on improving during every game.
“Our motto for the season is to compete, and with a young team, it’s about that mental part,” said Prather. “Our motto is ‘competing for respect.’ (We want) to play hard every game. We take it one game at a time; we don’t worry about wins or losses. It’s about building for the future.”
The Bengals are set to host Wheaton High School on Dec. 18 and will travel to Paint Branch on Dec. 20 before winter break begins.