Several members of the Morrisania Campus High School girls basketball team were late in arriving for last week‘s Bronx B West Division game against Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy.
Maybe it was the brutally cold weather that slowed their commute, New York City public transportation being what it is. Maybe it was simply the late afternoon Friday traffic that gummed up the works. Or maybe they were just in no rush to go up against RKA’s Shadai Plowden.
Plowden is the Lady Tigers’ superlative senior who makes it a habit of piling up points on overwhelmed opponents. Morrisania was Plowden’s latest victim as she posted 32 points — 22 of those in the second half, scoring all but four of the Lady Tigers’ 26 points — as RKA rolled to a decisive 47-29 victory over the Lady Knights.
RKA’s latest win upped its record to 10-0, and virtually locking up the regular-season division title with just five games remaining.
“Her improvement from year to year has been phenomenal,” said RKA head coach Will Cushing. “She was always talented, and she started as a freshman, which is rare. She’s just gotten better and better every year.”
Plowden spent the spring and summer on an Amateur Athletic Union team, marking the first time she got to play against “some serious competition,” Cushing said. “That was her first time on a high-level team. They went to a few national tournaments, and playing against that level of competition was great for her.”
Plowden’s help in RKA’s dismantling of Morrisania marked the sixth time in 10 games she has eclipsed the 30-point mark. Her high of 38 came in the season opener against Health Opportunities High School, and right now, Plowden averages 32 points a game, up from the 27 points a game she averaged last season when she led the Public School Athletic League’s B Division in scoring.
Plowden credits her time playing in the AAU for elevating her game.
“It made me tougher and I learned a lot from it,” she said. “My coaches were very hard on me, so it made me a better player.”
But Plowden is not just about points and padding her stat line. Her crisp passes and dogged work under the boards does not go unnoticed.
“Everybody knows about her, about what kind of scorer she is, but I think she has improved in other areas of her game this year,” Cushing said. “She’s an all-around player. She can score and defend and pass. Just a great all-around player.”
“I try and share the ball as much as I can, and not only get points but assists, too,” Plowden said. “It’s not only about points. It’s important to get the rest of my teammates involved.”
Plowden started off slowly against Morrisania with 10 points at halftime, yet RKA built a 21-12 lead. But the second half saw her erupt offensively as Morrisania could do little to slow her roll.
Plowden scored RKA’s first nine points of the third quarter and she finished the period scoring 11 of the Lady Tigers’ 13 points as RKA strengthened to a 34-20 lead after three periods. She didn’t slow down in the final quarter, either, as she scored 11 of the Lady Tigers’ 13 points.
It’s those kind of performances that have college recruiters sniffing around RKA’s gym these days.
“I’ve heard from some Division I schools, but I’d really like to go to (SUNY) Purchase,” Plowden said. “Their coach has recruited me, so that’s where I’d really like to go.”
Robert Morris University and Providence College are two other schools Plowden said have been interested in her.
With just five games remaining on the regular-season docket — and four of those coming at home — there is not a lot of time left in Plowden’s high school career. But there are still goals she hopes to achieve first.
“We went 13-1 last year, so this year we year we want to go undefeated,” Plowden said. “The seniors want to make this the best year possible. We want a special year.”
Cushing, however, is in no hurry to see his star take her final bows.
“I’ve been coaching here about 10 years, and without question, far and away, Shadai is certainly the best player I’ve coached,” Cushing said. “She is without question the best player we’ve ever had at the school for this program.”