Bulldogs win district

WOODBRIDGE — As she dribbled across midcourt in the final seconds of Tuesday night’s girls basketball game against Woodbridge, Shareka Purnell didn’t think once about back spasms, her late-night trip to the emergency room or who was standing in her way.

The only thing the Hylton sophomore had on her mind was producing the shot that would give the Bulldogs their first Cardinal District regular season championship.

She hardly had time to think about that.

The Bulldogs had just more than 11 seconds to go the length of the floor and get off a shot. Purnell accomplished that with several seconds to spare. After missing Monday’s entire practice with back spasms that eventually forced her to visit Potomac Hospital for treatment, Purnell gave Hylton a historic victory with a driving layup just before time expired.

“When I put it up I thought it was in,” Purnell said. “I just had a feeling.”

Purnell never saw the decisive basket go in. She’d collided with Vikings forward Diana Martinez in the lane and was sprawled on the floor when the Bulldogs’ celebration began. Martinez thought she’d drawn a charge on the play, but there was no foul call from the officiating crew and Hylton extended its record-breaking season with a 53-51 victory.

“We kept our composure and executed in the end,” Hylton coach Melvin Smith said. “We’re the better team. We’re the tougher team. We came through. I’m just so proud of these ladies.”

Smith was especially proud of Purnell, who arrived at school on time Tuesday morning and then came off the bench to score 11 points to help Hylton earn its first Northwest Region Tournament berth in school history.

“I saw her first period and she said she was fine,” Smith said. “It’s a scary situation when you hear one of your kids has been to the emergency room.”

It was almost as frightening watching his team fall behind by 13 points early in the second quarter.

The Vikings, who were hoping to avenge a 56-46 loss to the Bulldogs and force a one-game playoff for the regular season title, dominated the early going. They held the Bulldogs to one basket in the first seven minutes and led 19-6 before Hylton began its comeback.

Senior guard Jennifer Rhodan scored 15 points, guard Jasmine Byrd finished the night with 11 points and forward Monique Mason had eight points as the Bulldogs extended their winning streak to 15 games.

“We just hung on,” Smith said.


Woodbridge nearly spoiled the Bulldogs championship quest behind a 15-point performance from center Kathy Clark, 11 points from Liana Wooten and nine from point guard Kristin Portell. But Portell and Clark each fouled out in the fourth quarter and the Vikings missed five pivotal free throws while they were trying to protect a precarious lead.

With their playmaker and leading rebounder on the bench, the Vikings watched a three-point lead slip away in the final 57 seconds.

Just seconds after Whitney Allen forced a 51-all tie by hitting the second of two free throws, Purnell created the play broke the Vikings’ hearts and ended their winning streak at seven games.

“They are a good team,” Washington said. “For us to beat them we have to do everything well. I thought we played well, but there were some key plays where we gave the ball away.”

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