The Severna Park girls basketball team is accustomed to relying on its defense to wear opponents down, and it’s not uncommon for the Falcons to score point totals in the 30s and still win.
But on January 24 at rival Broadneck, the Falcons cut it loose.
Severna Park was off and running from the opening tip, scoring 17 first-quarter points and stacking up field goals in fast-break bursts to jump all over the Bruins on the way to a 51-23 victory.
Theresa Bragg scored a game-high 16 points and added 5 rebounds to lead the Falcons, who improved to 9-3 on the year. Kaila Stasulli added 10 points, Jess Albert had 7 points and 5 assists, Lena McLaughlin pulled down 8 rebounds, and every Falcon played minutes in the complete road win.
With its deep roster of multi-sport athletes, many of whom would not claim basketball as their primary sport, it’s no surprise that total team defense has been the Falcons’ calling card this season and in recent years. But against the Bruins, Severna Park leveraged its defense into a game plan that also took advantage of its well-rounded athleticism: get out and run.
“I think we’re finding some things that we’re starting to do a little better, such as, we can run the ball,” said head coach Kris Dean. “We have some good athletes. That was kind of the game plan we had going in, to see what we have and use a few things we tweaked throughout the week. It’s nice to put up some points. We’ve struggled with that and everybody knows it. Defensively it’s a catch-22, and you might give up some more points than you really want to, but it’s good for the girls confidence-wise to score that amount. It’s fun and it’s what you like to see.”
The Falcons put the game away early. With each rebound by Bragg and McLaughlin, Stasulli and guards Camryn Chew and Ella Ryan were able to receive outlet passes and fly up the court. Bragg, Albert and McLaughlin each scored easy baskets in the game’s opening minutes, and Severna Park never trailed.
“I think pushing the ball down the floor really fast and making sure everyone’s running their lanes keeps the intensity up,” said Chew. “Having everyone look around for shots and look for open girls, it really helps when we push the ball.”
Severna Park emptied its bench, and the reserves kept the momentum going. Cat Cleary (4 points in 11 minutes), Jillian Murphy (one 3-pointer made), Sydney Nwuli (2 points), Micayla Sloat (2 points), Emersyn Kelter, Hannah Verreault and Peyton Sullivan all contributed to the victory.
Albert said the strong performance stemmed directly from a focused week of practice.
“We had a great week of practice,” said Albert, a senior. “It was a great team win. We worked really hard in practice yesterday, and we came out like that, with intensity.”
The win over Broadneck came a week after Severna Park posted what was possibly its biggest win of the season, a 38-33 win over South River on the Seahawks’ home floor on January 17. In that victory, Albert totaled 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals; Bragg had 10 rebounds and 4 assists; Stasulli had 8 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds; Chew scored 7 points; and McLaughlin had 4 points and 7 rebounds. The Falcons went on a 15-0 run in the second quarter to gain an early advantage, and despite falling behind the Seahawks in the fourth quarter and dealing with Friday-night crowd noise in Edgewater, Severna Park rallied to put the game away.
It was the first win over South River for Dean in his three years at Severna Park, and no current Falcon had beaten the Seahawks as a varsity player.
“That was lit!” said Bragg of the win over the Seahawks. “Even if we get down, we can come back.”
Dean said the coaches didn’t hype up the lopsided record of their history with South River; instead, they approached the game as just another opportunity to improve. The players were cool under pressure, without placing too much weight on the moment.
“Something clicked in the second quarter of that game when we went on a 15-0 run,” said Dean. “Being down two late, I don’t think we felt much. The girls were quite calm, which is good, which is what you want to see. We’ve got some seniors that help with that and have been in games like that. We hadn’t beaten them, but they don’t think about any of that stuff. Going into the game, we just said we want to get better, like we do every day, so pulling it off was a confidence booster.”
Chew said the lesson from the South River game is to never let swings in momentum shake your belief.
“I think that really helped our team confidence,” Chew said. “It showed that we’re a good team. Always keep your head up, and don’t think that if you’re doing poorly in the first quarter you can’t come back from that.”
With playoffs not far off, Albert said the Falcons have improved significantly over the course of the season, and they’re in a good place entering February.
“Because we’re working hard, we’re hopefully on the up,” said Albert. “We can run with anyone. It all starts in practice. I think as the season’s gone on and we’ve had more practice and gotten used to playing with each other again, we’ve only gotten better. We’ve gotten into our groove.”