With 11 seconds remaining, It was just the ball, the basket and A’Lexus Harrison at the free throw line.
The Digital Harbor junior was at the charity stripe with the Dunbar home crowd screaming, hoping for Harrison to miss. The Lady Rams held a 38-37 lead and were fortunate to be back at the free throw line after Harrison was fouled following her rebound of a missed free throw from junior guard Jaida Scarborough.Harrison sank the first free throw with ease. The second was the same, hitting nothing but the bottom of the net.
“It’s just something you learn to do when you become a basketball player,” Harrison said. “You have to learn it. People are going to say crazy things, and crazy things will happen at crazy times.”
With the Lady Rams up 40-37, the Lady Poets drove down the court and hoisted a quick shot but missed. Digital Harbor prevailed and walked out of Dunbar’s gym with a victory last Friday.
“It was a complete, concentrated effort by everyone,” Digital Harbor coach Patrick McDonald said. “You can’t win these kind of games in this type of environment without everyone contributing. It goes back to our mantra. It’s not about me. It’s about what can you give to get the W. Tonight, we gave it all.”
Harrison finished the game with 19 points and 23 rebounds. Harrison seemingly came up with huge rebounds at key times on both sides of the court. In the first quarter alone, she scored eight points on offensive rebounds.
“What can you say?” McDonald said. “There’s a reason the University of Maryland fell in love with her as a ninth grader. Her athleticism is unmatched. I don’t know if there’s another player in the state that gives you that kind of effort every possession.”
The fourth quarter began with the Lady Rams holding a 31-26 advantage. Dunbar guard Michelle Wright backed her defender down and scored a layup in the period’s first minute. Two possessions later, Wright added two free throws to cut Digital Harbor’s lead to 31-30.
But every time Dunbar inched close, the Lady Rams answered. Harrison scored a bucket to put Digital Harbor up 33-30. About 30 seconds later, Harrison missed a shot and junior center Infiniti Alston, who finished with 10 points, picked up the loose ball and put in a layup.
Wright scored Dunbar’s next three points on a free throw and layup to cut the Lady Rams’ lead to 35-33. But with 2:24 to go, sophomore Deja Carroll hit a three-point shot to put the Lady Rams up 38-33.
“I had to make the three,” Carroll said. “It was all on me. I know how I play and it was for the team.”
Said McDonald: “That was a backbreaker for them and a severe boost for us. that’s the kind of player she is and she’s only in 10th grade. She has ice water in her veins. Sometimes as a coach you’re yelling, “ ‘No, no, no—good shot! That’s just how I drew it up.’ But that was all her.”
Wright then added two free throws shortly after Carroll’s 3. Possession went back and forth before Wright, who ended the game with 24 points, dribbled, spun and scored a scoop shot while being fouled. With a chance to tie, Wright missed the ensuing free throw, which was rebounded by Digital Harbor forward Miqueara Lewis. McDonald later called Lewis’ rebound the biggest play of the game.
“We missed some free throws, a couple of rebounds here or there but I’m proud of the girls, we didn’t back down,” Dunbar coach Wardell Selby said. “We shed a few tears, but I said that’s good because that tells me you care and what the game meant to you.”
The Lady Poets fouled Scarborough, who missed the front end of a 1 and 1. But Harrison was there to come up with her 23rd rebound of the game, and to sink her two free throws after being fouled.
McDonald commended his team for being able to come away with a win on the road in a battle of two top 5 teams in the state.
“When you take in all the elements ó we’re at Dunbar, the gym is packed, these are the neighborhood kids who are going to have neighborhood conversation,” McDonald said. “Being able to play under those circumstances is just tremendous.”
by Jason Butt