DOVER — Before Strawberry Crest’s district matchup with unbeaten Tampa Bay Tech on Monday night, Chargers coach La’Tosha Lewis pulled Nandi Jorden aside and told the 6-foot-3 center just what she needed from her.
“In order for us to win this game you’ve got to play big,” she said. “I need you to play tough, I need you to play mean, and I need you to score.”
In a 64-51 win against the Titans, she did all three. Jorden commanded a huge presence under the basket defensively and scored 10 of her 17 points in the second half, during which the Titans tried desperately to come back.
The Titans (7-1, 1-1) came into the game with big wins; Tampa Bay Tech had won six of its seven games by at least 22 points. But that didn’t faze Jorden as she prepared for their chance to take on the unbeaten rival.
“Against any team, I don’t see anybody. It’s just me on the court,” a confident Jorden said. “Whoever comes in the paint, I give them the business, they give it back.”
For the Chargers in the first half, it was all give and little take. Strawberry Crest (6-1, 2-0) was on point offensively, and the Chargers took a 41-23 lead into halftime. Minutes into the third quarter Strawberry Crest took a 49-26 lead — its biggest of the night — following a fastbreak bucket from Aliyah Gregory.
But for the rest of the third quarter and much of the fourth, the scrappy Titans picked up their pace. Strawberry Crest, Lewis said, lazily watched its opponent regain control.
After a Titan technical foul late in the third quarter, Tampa Bay Tech went on an 8-1 run to bring the score within 10 early in the fourth.
“With a team like this you cannot get complacent,” Lewis said. “I told my girls when I called a timeout, ‘You have to stay on it. You have to still kick them to death because they still have the ability to come back.’ ”
Just as she had been instructed to do, Jorden came through for her team when it needed her most. With 5:03 remaining, she snapped the Titans’ run with the Chargers’ first field goal of the fourth quarter. The home team cruised from there.
Jorden was joined by leading scorers Gregory and Maiya Trigg, both of whom also had 17 points. Brianna Thomas led the Titans with 19.
Though the season is still young, a big win against a district opponent it will see again, Gregory said, does wonders for how her team is perceived. They know what they’re capable of, she added, but now everyone else should, too.
“It’s going to make lots of teams respect us,” Gregory said. “All we can do is continue to win games and continue to make ourselves look good.”