Heading into Saturday's game against Poly at the 17th annual Basketball Academy, Aberdeen guard Jimmia McCluskey said the Eagles figured the two teams were pretty similar with their inside strength and their speed. The No. 1 Eagles, however, turned it up a couple notches on the No. 4 Engineers.
Aberdeen used its swarming defense and, at times, a devastating press to run past Poly, 64-44, at Morgan State's Hill Field House.
The Eagles (13-2) started to break away early in the second quarter with a press that forced two quick Engineers turnovers and sparked a 9-2 run for a 16-6 lead. Little by little, Aberdeen expanded that lead.
"The press always works for us," McCluskey said. "We attack the team, we're able to get the turnovers, we have help and we kind of know where they're going to pass the ball next because of the way they transition."
Inside, the Eagles had a height advantage in 6-foot-2 Endia Jones and 6-1 Stephanie Jones, but the Engineers (14-3) are used to being smaller than most opponents and their powerful forward Teira Pendleton (15 points, four rebounds) plays much taller than her 5-9 height. The Eagles, however, were better able to exploit their inside strength because they were more efficient getting up and down the floor.
Stephanie Jones finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while McCluskey had 14 points and guard Nazje Norton added 10, including three 3-pointers.
For the second time in three days, the Eagles (13-2) handled a Top 5 team — after defeating No. 5 Digital Harbor, 63-45, on Thursday — showing they may be a different team but they're no less competitive after losing 6-3 center Brionna Jones, last season's All-Metro Player of the Year, for the season with a torn ACL.
"That says a lot about us," McCluskey said. "It says that even though we don't have Bri now, we can still accomplish big goals. Without Bri, we have more speed, so we can run up and down the floor a little bit more."
The Eagles' next big goal is to beat Riverdale Baptist on Thursday night at Aberdeen after falling to the Crusaders, 56-39, in a holiday tournament over the Christmas break.
No. 9 Milford Mill 50, No. 5 Digital Harbor 41: Qierra Murray, who finished with 18 points, hit a follow shot and a 3-pointer to spark an early 12-0 run for a 24-15 lead that gave the Millers enough of an edge to hold on for the upset at the Basketball Academy.
With 3:47 left in the game, the Rams pulled within 42-37 when A'Lexus Harrison banked in a 3-pointer, but Milford Mill's Akiri Lewis hit two free throws and Dionna White hit a runner and then fed Murray in a 6-2 run that boosted the Millers' edge to 48-39 with 2:46 to go.
With about two minutes left, Harrison, a 6-foot All-Metro forward-guard, got tangled up with a couple of Millers on a rebound and suffered a painful knee injury. She said her body was going forward while her opponent was inadvertently pushing her lower right leg backward.
Harrison led the Rams (12-3) with 14 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and four steals before leaving the game. She also took three charges.
Kelli Smoot had 15 points for the Millers (13-2), while White, an All-Metro guard, finished with 12 points and three assists.
No. 10 City 73, Western Tech 41: Dyzhanay Burton scored 21 points and Trana' Ford added 15 as the Knights (14-2) rolled to the victory at the Basketball Academy. Ford, a 5-10 center, scored eight first-quarter points as the Knights exploited their advantage inside to take a 20-13 lead that grew to 35-15 midway through the second quarter. Sydney Clopton led the Wolverines with 17 points.
1 Aberdeen 64, 4 Poly 44
P—Smith 12, Stokes 5, Young 2, Pearson 1, Okororie 4, Newton 5, Pendleton 15. Totals 17-9-21 44.
A—Eller 1, Norton 10, E.Jones 4, McCluskey 14, S.Jones 22, Palmer 9, Porter 4. Totals 23 14-23 64. Half: A, 31-22
9 Milford Mill 50, 5 Digital Harbor 41
DH—T.Smith 3, Carroll 4, Lewis 8, Scarborough 2, Harrison 14, Alston 10. Totals 16 6-12 41.
MM—Murray 18, Smoot 15, White 12, McKenzie 2, Lewis 3. Totals 17 11-18 50. Half: M, 26-20.
10 City 73, Western Tech 41
C—Meyers 6, Burton 21, Ford 15, Bell 3, Bea 8, Sydnor 8, Gladden 11. Totals 31 7-15 73
WT—Spliedt 4, Clopton 17, Dixon 6, Tapley 2, Dennis 8, Coles 4. Totals 12 15-25 41. Half: C, 38-22.