LARGO – The pressure was on Feb. 8 as the Largo Lady Lions and Gwynn Park Yellowjackets faced off in an intense match. Gwynn Park came away on top with a 58-51 victory.
For some players on Largo’s roster, it was a big game as they hosted their annual senior game. Seniors Tania White and Brianna Jones led the charge early as they scored the first 9 points for Largo, which gave them a 9-5 lead early in the first frame.
Gwynn Park answered right back with an 8-3 run to take a 13-12 advantage late in the first quarter. Although they obtained the lead, it did not last long as Vanessa Schwarzmann hit a buzzer-beater three-pointer to end the first period and gave Largo a 15-13 lead.
A back and forth battle ensued at the start of the second quarter as both teams exchanged baskets.
Gwynn Park was led by junior Denia Bowman as she single-handily brought her team back in the second quarter with her all-around scoring.
After being down by as much as 6 points in the second, Bowman gave Gwynn Park a one-point advantage in the closing seconds of the first half.
But White came back with a basket of her own in the lane to give the Lady Lions a 26-25 lead as they went into halftime. Sophomore Jenae Dublin, who is playing her first season as a center instead of her usual position at guard/forward, played a significant role in getting Gwynn Park back in the game.
“Its new for me but I am getting better as it goes,” Dublin said, who finished with 10 points and a few key rebounds. “It’s a lot harder when you’re done there in the post, but I’m going to push through. The biggest difference is rebounding, then making a move to look back and see where your teammates are at is a lot. The first half we made some bad passes, and we weren’t communicating.”
Bowman continued her efficient play as she scored the first 7 points at the beginning of the second half, which gave her team a three-point lead early in the third, their largest lead of the night.
She gave her team the energy they needed as they went on a 13-5 run to start the second half and increased their advantage to 9 points halfway through the third quarter.
As Largo missed shots and turned the ball over, Gwynn Park took advantage and pushed their lead to 13 late in the third. Largo never recovered, and Gwynn Park took an 11-point lead into the final period.
“In the third quarter, we decided we were going to put the pressure on throughout,” Gwynn Park Head Coach Michael Strother said. “White is a great player, and we were able to get her out of her comfort zone. She got a couple of shots off the first half and hit long three’s, and in the second half, she didn’t do that. She did get inside a couple of times but our kids stuck to what our game plan and they were able to prevail.”
In the final period, Gwynn Park scored its first basket, and it seemed as though they were going to run away with the lead.
However, Largo went on a run and cut the lead down to six points with just under five minutes left in the game. Gwynn Park maintained that six-point lead with more than two minutes left. Gwynn Park could have extended the lead with four technical foul free throws but missed every one.
Gwynn Park missed a total of nine free throws with less than two minutes left in the game, which left the door open for Largo. However, Largo did not take advantage as Gwynn Park held on for a hard-fought road victory.
“I felt my team hustled and we played with aggression,” Bowman said, who finished with a game-high of 22 points. “I feel like we wanted this win really bad. I created my own shots to get good looks at the basket and then when they were slacking off, and I took advantage of it. My goal now is to win a state championship.”
Bowman just came off a career milestone in which she scored her 1,000th point in just her junior year. Bowman showed why she is one of the best scorers in the county.
“Before coming to high school, I set out the accomplishment to score 1,000 points,” Bowman said. “It was goal that I set, and I achieved it. I stayed in the gym every day for about three hours. I do a lot of shooting when I work out. When I came to Gwynn Park, I didn’t see myself as a primary scorer, so I built myself into one.”