Early in Wednesday night'sgirls basketball game before a nearly packed house at Western, Digital Harbor forward A'Lexus Harrison pumped her fist after a few big plays.
For the junior, who had 27 points and 25 rebounds in leading the No. 2 Rams to a 51-40 victory, it's never too early in the season to play with emotion.
"This was more of a rivalry game than anything," Harrison said. "It is early in the season but very high energy. You have to become an emotional player. You have to play with emotion and not get emotional, as our coach always says."
The No. 12 Doves, a young team under new coach Dafne Lee-Blakney, fought off the Rams' early surge in the Baltimore City Division I matchup, coming from 11 points down to tie at 25 on Qierra Murray's 3-pointer with 5:26 to go in the third quarter. Murray, a sophomore veteran, scored 20 points and hit four 3-pointers, including three in the 19-8 run.
Murray's buzzer beater from near midcourt to end the first half pulled the Doves within 23-20 and gave them plenty of momentum, but they could sustain it for only a few minutes after the break.
"When you play at home, you're always going to make a run," Harrison said of the Doves' comeback, "because your adrenaline's pumping, you're playing in front of your home crowd and everyone's there for you, so we knew they were going to make a run. We just had to settle down, relax and adapt to their run."
After Murray tied the game, the Rams (6-1, 2-0 division) took off on a 16-2 run, thanks in part to some changes to their defense. After a steal, Harrison capped a three-point play to give them a 35-27 lead. In the final 43 seconds of the third quarter, Kirsten Gaither hit two 3-pointers and Harrison, who has committed to Maryland, made one to run the lead to 44-29.
MiQueara Lewis' follow shot pushed the lead to 46-29 to open the fourth quarter before the Doves again rallied to within 46-37. Harrison doused that momentum with back-to-back layups for a 50-37 lead with 1:44 to go.
"It's always been a healthy rivalry," Digital Harbor coach Patrick McDonald said. "It's kind of like playing with your little brother. He gets tired before you do. You have to just continue to persevere and play on."
The Rams suffered their only loss to Riverdale Baptist, 74-33, Dec. 10 at the Beast of the East Showcase at St. Frances. Riverdale, from Upper Marlboro, ranks No. 5 in the USA Today Super 25. No Baltimore-area team even ranks in USA Today's East regional Top 10. However, the Rams did beat the No. 10 team in the East, H.D. Woodson, 41-35, in the season-opening IAAM-WCAC Challenge.
The Doves (2-3, 0-1) have a lot of young talent, but so early in the season, Lee-Blakney is still working to mold it into a cohesive unit.
"Free throws killed us, and missed layups," Lee-Blakney said. "Layups, we missed in the double digits. But we're young. We've got to jell and get the chemistry going. I see a lot bright spots and things to look forward to."
DH—Gaither 6, Parks 2, Carroll 2, Lewis 5, Alexander 3, Harrison 27, Alston 6. Totals 19 8-17 51.
W—Taylor 2, Gibson 6, Murray 20, Smoot 4, Graves 4, Lockley 2, Booth 2. Totals 17 2-11 40.
Half: DH, 23-20.