While 6-foot-3 All-Metro center Bri Jones lay on the court with a stinger that briefly left her without feeling on her right side Friday, Aberdeen's chances of holding onto the No. 1 ranking against No. 2 Digital Harbor appeared tenuous.
Not to the Eagles.
Aberdeen was clinging to a 22-15 lead when Jones walked to the bench with 2:01 left in the second quarter. She sat for much of third quarter, but it didn't matter. The Eagles kicked their game into another gear after the break and started running away with a 67-38 victory at the Basketball Academy Lake Clifton.
"It feels great." Eagles forward TK Fowlkes said. "It feels unbelievable to win over No. 2 and still be on top. It's amazing."
The Eagles (15-0) used their pressure defense, a balanced offense and plenty of teamwork to overwhelm the Rams (13-5) in the second half. Jones finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, but six Eagles played key roles.
Fowlkes and guard Nia Alleyne each scored 11, while point guard Lakeia Hayden added eight. Forward Jimmia McClusky scored six and led a stellar defensive effort while freshman guard Kierra Palmer came off the bench for critical minutes and scored seven points.
Jones' injury happened when she got caught up with several players while trying to take a shot in the paint. He body got twisted and she hit the floor. The junior lay there for about 10 minutes, but said she felt fine when she got back on the court.
To open the second half, forward A'Lexus Harrison brought the Rams within 22-17, but the Eagles scored the next 15 points. Their pressure defense forced 10 turnovers during the run, and they converted six into points. The 5-foot-7 Fowlkes stepped into Jones' center spot to battle the Rams' 6-foot-5 center Infiniti Alston.
By the time Jones returned, the Eagles led 31-17 on points from four different players. When Jones came back, they went right to her and she scored 10 straight points. The Eagles opened the fourth quarter with a 19-8 run that boosted the lead to 60-30 on Lakeia Hayden's 3-pointer with 4:09 to go.
"When Bri went out, we knew we had to pick it up even more," McCluskey said. "Even though we were going to be short, we were still going to have the team and the quickness. After we just started getting pass after pass after pass, it showed that we can just come together as a team and do what we do best."
The Rams, who got nine points each from Harrison and guard Kirsten Gaither-McDonald, struggled against an Eagles team that struck in transition over and over in the second half.
"Aberdeen established tempo and we weren't able to," Digital Harbor coach Patrick McDonald said, "so any time you establish tempo, you can control the ebb and the flow of the game and that really sums it up. They didn't do anything extraordinarily special. They were efficient and we were not."
There's a good chance the teams will meet again in the playoffs, because the Rams moved up this year from Class 2A and both teams are now in the Class 3A North region.
No. 1 Aberdeen 67, No. 2 Digital Harbor 38
A—Alleyne 11, McCluskey 6, Palmer 7, Hayden 8, Fowlkes 11, Oliver 2, B.Jones 22. Totals 26 12-20 67.
DH—Gaither-McDonald 9, Parks 7, Carroll 2, Lewis 5, Scarborough 2, Harrison 9, Alston 4. Totals 15 6-16 38. Half: A, 22-15.