A'Lexus Harrison averages 17 points and 16 rebounds for… (Colby Ware / Photo for The…)
Girls basketball state semifinals
(All games at UMBC's RAC Arena)
No. 2 Aberdeen (23-1) vs. Largo (25-1)
Time: 7 p.m.
Outlook: The two highest-scoring teams in the tournament feature the inside domination of 6-foot-3 Eagles C Bri Jones (22 ppg, 14 rpg, 5 blocks per game) against the up-tempo pace of a quick Largo squad that gets most of its scoring from the backcourt. Aberdeen averages 72 points, but the Lions put up 81.3. This game likely will be decided in transition, where the Eagles will have to put the brakes on the Lions' running game led by 5-5 G Jessica Lyons (20.1 ppg, 4 apg) and 5-7 G Brittany Taylor (17.2 ppg, 5 apg). The Eagles, looking for the program's first state title, have the versatility to do that. Forwards Nia Alleyne and Jimmia McCluskey play like guards, and the starting five, including guards Lakeia Hayden and Ayana Stewart, combine for 13 steals a game as well as 60 points.
Howard (20-5) vs. Frederick (20-4)
Time: 9 p.m.
Outlook: The Lions return to the tournament for the first time in 15 years under first-year coach Scott Robinson, who guided Mount Hebron to the 2008 2A title. Known for a stingy defense allowing only 31.9 points a game, Howard faces an opponent that has been held under 50 just once and averages 65.9 points. The Cadets like to push the ball and press. The Lions, aiming to add a second state title to the one from 1994, are good at slowing things down and are tough against the press. Lions senior G Simone Wise (10.6 ppg, 4.4 apg) averaged 19 points in the regional playoffs, while G Lauren Tolson (19 ppg) leads the Cadets, who are looking for the program's first state title.
No. 11 Digital Harbor (15-8) vs. Calvert (23-2)
Time: 3 p.m.
Outlook: The Rams played a tough regular-season schedule and started out 6-6, but they were ready to roll through their region, including avenging a late-season loss to City. They know all about the state tournament, too, having made it four straight times and winning the 1A championship in 2009. However, the Rams are young, having graduated the players they relied on to pull them through the last few years. Still, the youngsters are talented. Leading the way are 6-1 sophomore F A'Lexus Harrison (17 ppg, 16 rpg) and freshman PG Deja Carroll (9 ppg, 4 apg) along with senior G Ke'Shara Floyd (10 ppg, 5 apg). The Cavaliers knocked off then-No. 9 Glenelg to get into the tournament for the first time in 21 years. They are led by 5-6 G Alexis Smith (20.5 ppg).
No. 3 Joppatowne (24-1) vs. No. 9 Dunbar (18-4)
Time: 7 p.m.
Outlook: The only local showdown in the semifinals features defending state champ Joppatowne against a Poets program that won four state crowns between 2000 and 2003 and was back in the state semifinals last season. The Mariners boast a stellar outside game led by G Zameria Jones (15.2 ppg, 2.9 apg) and PG Quay Malloy (7.6 ppg, 2.5 apg). Dunbar has an underrated group of guards who can shoot but look first to feed 6-3 C Oma-ah Tayong (14 ppg, 10.7 rpg) while versatile F/G Michelle Wright (21.2 ppg) can work under the basket or away from it. Joppatowne may have a counter for the Poets' inside domination in savvy 5-10 F Shakara Head (15.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg), who is tough to push around on either end of the court.