Western girls basketball coach Tasha Townsend didn't have to provide much motivation for senior captain JJ Williams going into Thursday afternoon's Class 4A state semifinal at Towson University's SECU Arena.
The 5-foot-8 forward-guard seemed to be everywhere at times, especially in the second half as she led the No. 4 Doves to a 65-39 victory over Parkdale with 22 points and 18 rebounds. It's Western's first trip to the state final since 2010.
"I gave JJ a break probably in the second quarter just to get a nice little energy boost," Townsend said. "At halftime, I basically told them, 'It's all or nothing. I don't have to say much to JJ. She leaves it all out there every day whether it's the championship game, whether it's just a regular-season game. She never walks off the court without giving it her all."
In the second half, Williams dominated both ends of the court against the Doves' Prince George's County opponent with most of her 13 defensive rebounds and a couple of blocks.
"She's a tough player," Parkdale assistant coach Barry Brogsdale said. "We have a couple young ladies in our league that are very similar. In fact, the young lady from Roosevelt is a similar type of player. We were prepared for it, but give her credit, she made a lot of plays and at a certain point, we just got to ball watching."
Williams led a Western team full of strong performances with guard Jasmen Walton scoring 19 points and guard Makayla Pickens adding nine. Forwards Alayah Walker and Jadia Jackson combined for four points and 16 rebounds, doing a nice job of clogging up the middle against the Panthers' 6-4 center Nyamal Pinyien, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
The Doves, who will play Walt Whitman (23-3) for the title Saturday at 3 p.m. at SECU Arena, used a 10-point spurt to break an early second quarter tie. After that, the Panthers (18-8) never got closer than seven.
The Panthers, who defeated two-time defending 4A champion Eleanor Roosevelt in the regional final, had their chances, however.
A missed layup to start the fourth quarter would have cut the Doves' lead to 10, but Walton answered with a three-point play and then Williams grabbed the ball off a turnover and hit Walton for a layup. Instead of a 10-point game, it was 44-28.
Parkdale cut it to 44-30 with 6:26 to go, but hit only one field goal in the first four minutes of the final quarter. Hitting a few more free throws would have helped, but the Panthers went 8-for-15 in the quarter and 14-for-31 in the game.
The Doves got eight rebounds from Williams in the fourth quarter and they outrebounded Parkdale, 54-41 in the game. They needed that transition game, because they also struggled from the free-throw line, hitting just nine of 25.
Townsend, who scouted Parkdale in its regional final Monday night, and the players wanted to keep the pace up-tempo from the start.
"It was kind of the game plan to run them," Williams said. "That's usually how we play. We know we have the athleticism, the speed and the skill so we use all three and take advantage of them. As a team we know get the ball, go, look down court and just run them."
The Doves, who tied a state record with their 15th appearance in the state tournament, are going for their third state title. They won in 1994 and 1995. They've been to the title game four times since.
4Western 65, Parkdale 39
P—Martin 7, Bent 2, Pinyien 11, Calhoun 9, Palmer 7, Hicks 1, Johnson 2. Totals 12 14-31 39.
W—Walker 2, Jackson 2, Walton 19, Pickens 9, Williams 22, Adams 5, Johnson 4, Waters 2. Totals 26 9-25 65.
Half, W, 25-18