Even with last season's All-Metro Player of the Year Brionna Jones sidelined with a knee injury, No. 1 Aberdeen's opponents are still trying to keep up with a Jones.
Stephanie Jones, Brionna's freshman sister, scored 28 points, including 11 in the first quarter, to spark the Eagles to a 63-45 win over No. 5 Digital Harbor Thursday night at the 17th annual Basketball Academy at Morgan State's Hill Field House.
"I think a lot of teams took us for granted," Aberdeen coach Amber Milnes said. "They thought Bri was out and Aberdeen was done. This game puts us right back on that map. Aberdeen is not done. We have a whole team of talented players and we'll take it to any team at this point."
The Eagles (12-2) have won all four games they've played since Brionna Jones, a 6-3 center scheduled for surgery Friday, tore the ACL in her right knee. But Thursday night's game was their biggest test.
Last year's Class 3A state champions, the Eagles have been playing a more up-tempo offense that utilizes the speed and quickness of their guards, Jimmia McCluskey and Kierra Palmer, and inside players such as Stephanie Jones, a 6-foot-1 forward, and Endia Jones, a 6-foot-2 center who is no relation to the sisters.
Stephanie Jones showed off her ability to drive or hit the long-range jumper, scoring 16 of the Eagles' first 26 points. Her 3-pointer followed by a layup off a feed from Palmer gave Aberdeen a 26-10 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Eagles kept the momentum rolling, taking a 36-12 lead into the second half and extending the margin as high as 46-21 on Palmer's runner midway through the third quarter.
"We all just wanted to be able to pick up our game," Stephanie Jones said, "and know that since Brionna's not here, we need to make up for what she did with us. We need to get more rebounds and pick up our defense so that it will still seem like she's on the floor."
The Rams (12-2) started to come back when guard Deja Carroll hit two 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter, but they could only cut the gap to 17. Carroll finished with 15 points, nine in the fourth quarter, and center Infiniti Alston had 13 points.
The Eagles face their second straight Top 5 team when they meet No. 4 Poly on Saturday at 1:45 at Morgan State.
No. 4 Poly 60, Western Tech 30: In the opening game of the three-day Basketball Academy, the Engineers' inside game overwhelmed the Wolverines.
Poly (14-2) didn't have a big height advantage inside but 5-9 junior forward Tiera Pendelton and 5-10 freshman center Nkeiruka Okororie combined for 23 rebounds and contributed 29 points — 10 of them on second-chance points. The Engineers outrebounded Western Tech, 53-25.
Guards gave the Engineers their first run of the game when Khepera Stokes converted back-to-back turnovers and Aneah Young hit an open 3-pointer for a 14-6 lead. After Daija Coles finished off a three-point play for the Woverines, Poly scored the next eight points and built its lead to 35-15 at the half on Pendteon's three-point play.
"They work very hard. They're tough kids," Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able said. "They're the heartbeat. Baltimore City is a guard, slashing league. Nobody, boys or girls, ever talks about any of the post players unless their post player is humungous. Then she gets some notice because she's that tall. Our post players are very, very gritty."
The Wolverines, who reached the state Class 1A title game last season while the Engineers made it to the semifinals in Class 4A, got 12 points from junior guard Ebonee Dixon.
No. 1 Aberdeen 63, No. 5 Digital Harbor 45
A—Norton7, E.Jones 7, McCluskey 10, S. Jones 28, Palmer 11. Totals 21 16-21 63.
DH—T.Smith3, Carroll 15, Lewis 4, Scarborough 2, Harrison 8, Alston 13. Totals 18 7-11 45. Half: A, 36-12.
No. 4 Poly 60, Western Tech 30
WT—Clopton 6, Dixon 12, Tapley 4, Dennis 3, Coles 5. Totals 9 11-21 30.
P—Ross 4, Stokes 6, Young 7, Pearson 2, Okororie 14, Grate 2, Smith 5, Newton 5, Pendleton 15. Totals 21 17-20 60. Half: P, 35-15.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun