Western girls basketball entered the 2021-22 season with one mission: capturing a state championship.
Led by a dazzling 40-point performance from senior guard Ny’Ceara Pryor, the fourth-seeded Doves defeated second-seeded Clarksburg, 81-68, to capture the Class 4A state championship. It marks the Doves’ (19-2) first state championship since 1995 and third overall, while Pryor’s dominant performance tied the record for the second-most points in girls basketball state championship history.
“It means a lot,” Western coach Latasha Townsend said of capturing the state title. “These girls can tell you, do I ask about a City championship, do I ask about a regional championship? No, this is what it’s all about. This is what I do with all my girls as soon as I come in. Basically, we map out a plan from ninth grade. This is the plan; this is the mecca and this is the goal for my kids every year. This is always the goal and for Western, it means so much because 1995 was a long time ago.”
The Doves handed the Coyotes their first loss of the season by attacking the basket at will. Western shot 37-for-50 at the free-throw line, as Pryor and fellow senior Gabby Johnson consistently drew contact. Johnson finished with 29 points of her own, as the Doves’ two team captains dominated from tip to buzzer.
The most pivotal stages came early in the third quarter. Clarksburg closed the first half with momentum, trailing by just two at the break. More pressing for Western, Pryor entered halftime with four fouls, one away from fouling out. With just seven players on the roster, the Doves couldn’t afford to lose a player, especially their main offensive initiator.
“We had a conversation at halftime and coach was like, ‘You know what to do,’” Pryor said. “You just got to go out there and play smart. I just went out there and played smart. I knew my team needed me. So, I just went out there and played my game. It showed, I just wanted the state championship. Me and my seven people won the state championship, so I’m feeling great about it.”
Despite battling foul trouble, Pryor played with the same quickness, displaying the necessary poise to avoid picking up her fifth foul. Catalyzed by Pryor and Johnson, Western executed a 9-0 run over a three-minute stretch to take a 43-34 lead with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter. That period was emblematic of the Doves’ success, as they thrived in transition and used their speed and athleticism to create open opportunities.
“At halftime coach Tasha said, ‘Look this is y’all’s game,” Johnson said. “What are we going to do, come out slow or are we going to come out aggressive?’ Ny’Ceara knows how to play with four fouls, I’ve seen her do it before. [Maya Gray] turned up our intensity on defense. When she turned it up, everybody turned it up. Nobody was hungrier than us in Maryland. We took advantage of the crowd booing us. We took that as momentum.”
Western outscored Clarksburg 20-7 in the third quarter. With a 15-point lead going into the fourth, the Doves’ momentum surged further down the stretch. Trailing by double digits with time winding down, Clarksburg was forced to consistently foul.
The veteran guard tandem of Johnson and Pryor were up to the task, knocking down 15 of their combined 18 free throws in the fourth.
“She was a heck of a ball player,” Clarksburg coach Sissy Natoli of Pryor. “She handled the ball well. She slashed to the basket nicely and she was a finisher. There were times when we went to more of a box-and-one to slow her down, but she was a very talented player.”