TOWSON – Assata Reid could not hold back her tears any longer.
The senior guard was overcome with emotion as she arrived at the bench after fouling out in the fourth quarter of her final game for the Largo girls’ basketball team.
As Head Coach Ayana Ball-Ward hugged her young player, Reid sobbed into her black suit.
“She said that I had a great season,” Reid said as she was fighting back more tears during the press conference. “She told me that I worked hard to get us where we ended up.”
Largo’s dream of winning back-to-back 2A Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association (MPSSAA) State Championships was all for naught.
A New Town team motivated by revenge wreaked havoc on the Lady Lions. A 15-3 run in the first quarter, anchored by Titans senior Maraiyah Smith, stunned the Lions. Largo was unable to bounce back as New Town won its first state title, 61-47.
The loss ends an impressive run for Largo, who won its second straight regional title on March 3 after defeating Westlake at home. The Lions then beat Marriotts Ridge, 49-37, in the state semifinals on March 10.
New Town (23-5) looked to avenge last season’s 69-49 loss to Largo in the state semifinals. According to Head Coach Rich Hibbert, the Titans used several different defensive looks to block passing lanes for steals to create easy transition points. He placed guard Ahriyah Richardson on Largo star Stephanie Guihon to prevent drives into the paint as well.
The defensive strategy worked, as Largo failed to find its shooting form early, going 1-for-10 in field goals, 1-for-6 at the free throw line and finishing the first quarter with a season-low three points. The low scoring production was magnified by Largo’s struggles to make three-pointers. The Lions finished the game 1-for-16 from behind the arc.
With seven team fouls before the end of the first quarter, and putting New Town in the bonus, Largo placed itself in a sinking hole.
“It was a tough game to sit and watch,” Ball-Ward said. "We came in today and knew the gameplan to a ‘T,’ but it did not go our way.”
“It was frustrating,” Guihon said about the team’s first quarter performance. “My teammates had my back and they told me to keep attacking and keep doing what I do. It is tough when you are in a high-stakes game and things don’t go your way, but you have teammates that are around you. It makes things easier to get through.”
Largo could not set up its full-court press defense, failing to get a steal in the first half while not scoring a fast break point in the game. Watching another team turn steals into transition points was expected, Ball-Ward said, but the lack of a response to fight back killed any comeback chances for Largo.
“They told us to adjust [to New Town],” junior Brianna Jones said. “But we couldn’t do that for some reason.”
Late in the second quarter, things got worse as Ward-Ball was given a technical foul after exchanging words with official Bob Cherian about the defensive play of a New Town player.
Guihon attempted to lead her team back in the second half, muscling her way through the Titan defense to score the majority of her 19 points and cutting New Town’s lead to as few as 12. Senior Tamiya Ford contributed eight points, all coming from second chance opportunities. Before fouling out, Reid scored two of her six points during a 6-0 run in the fourth quarter.
New Town fought back, increasing its lead to as much as 20 midway through the fourth. Three New Town players finished in double-figures, as Smith led the way with a game-high 20 points. As New Town was presented with the state championship trophy, Largo players sat on their bench, crying and placing their jerseys over their distraught faces.
The sting of losing was too fresh for Guihon to reflect on her career, where she won a state title, two regional championships and averaged 27.7 points-per-game during her senior year. However, she quickly praised her teammates and her coaches that helped her reach those goals.
“We had a good run this year, after all the adversities that we faced, with injuries and things of that nature,” Guihon said. “So I’m just proud of what we able to accomplish as a team. We came a long way, so I’m just going to focus on that going forward.”