Unselfish Play has Gwynn Park Girls Basketball Reaching for Postseason Success

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Last season was a mixed bag for the Gwynn Park girls basketball team.

The Yellow Jackets finished the season with a superb 20-5 overall record, but didn't make a big impact in the MPSSAA 2A state playoffs. The team lost 75-63 in a south regional semifinal to Largo, which went on to win the state championship a couple weeks later.

"The team fell short of expectations losing to Largo in the regional semifinals," head coach Michael Strother said. "The coaching staff believed if we could get past Largo we had a great chance to make it to the state final."

After losing a sizable chunk of last year's team, Strother was left in the position of being unsure of what to expect from Gwynn Park this season.

One thing he did know was that Gwynn Park would have a small roster in terms of numbers. The Yellow Jackets have six seniors on their roster but only nine total girls, the smallest amount during Strother's tenure.

"The team's performance in the She's Got Game Classic of 1-1, and 2-1 in Title IX Classic was a great surprise. My coaches and I started witnessing this team's desire to compete, and we continue to see that same desire today," Strother said. "They have performed well."

Indeed, it looks like it could be another excellent season for Gwynn Park.

The Yellow Jackets are 13-4 and currently riding high on a five game win streak. The team has topped fellow Prince George's County teams like Oxon Hill, Potomac and Surrattsville. Gwynn Park has also beaten Largo this season, pulling out a close 55-53 win against the defending state champions on Dec. 13.

"Our focus this season is an aggressive defensive system with the ability to adjust based on the opponent's game style. This requires our team to understand the defensive system completely," Strother said. "Their adjustment so far has been great and the team is having fun with our defensive style of play."

Because of Gwynn Park's numbers, every girl on the roster plays a significant role for the team.

Sophomore guard Denai Bowman leads the team in most statistical categories including points scored with an average of 15 a game. Senior guard Brittany Davis has been excellent as well especially when Gwynn Park beat Vicentian from Pennsylvania. In that game, Davis scored her game career high with 21 points.

Guard Jannell Jackson-McKennelly is averaging nine points and three steals a game, while Amaya Harkley and her aggressive style of play has her averaging eight points. Kroix Dale has brough quickness, defense and scoring to the floor for the Yellow Jackets, while Chyna Landon has been an offensive scoring threat.

Kimora Lee-Watkins, Jada Lewis and Aja Hale have been big on the boards for Gwynn Park. Lee-Watkins and Lewis have been the bigger offensive threats, while Hale has helped on the defensive end of the floor.

While each player brings something unique to the floor for the Yellow Jackets, what's made it all work in Strother's eyes is how the players work as a team.

"This group is unselfish, they work well together on both sides of the ball," Strother said. "Defense is our primary focus, and they are beginning to develop team chemistry offensively."

With the group firing on all cylinders, Strother is hoping this year's team can thrive where last year's group struggled.

"The goals for this team are to develop defensive and offensive continuity, and make a strong run for the state championship," Strother said.
January 31st, 2017By: Wick Eisenberg

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