No. 2 McDonogh School opened its IAAM A Conference basketball semifinal playoff game with No. 4 Roland Park Country on a 7-0 run and led wire-to-wire as it pulled away for a 63-49 win, in Owings Mills Thursday evening.
The Eagles (23-3 overall) return to the A Conference championship game where they will face top-ranked and undefeated St. Frances Academy on Sunday evening (6 p.m.) at Stevenson University. St. Frances advanced with a 62-45 win over Seton Keough in Thursday’s other semifinal.
Despite their fast start, the Eagles were not extremely crisp in the early going, missing on several easy scoring opportunities and turning the ball over at a higher rate than normal. Every time Roland Park (19-6) made an attempt to take advantage of the Eagles’ struggles, however, McDonogh found the perfect answer to stretch its advantage. The final such answer was a 16-1 run that began late in the third quarter and lasted until the 5:39 mark of the fourth quarter.
At that point the Eagles led 52-36 and they grew their lead to 18 twice in the late going, before the visiting Reds made up a little ground in the final three minutes.
“We just had that mentality that we were going to win. We just didn’t know how,” said sophomore Aleah Nelson, who started the big second half run by scoring the final eight points of the third quarter.
Prior to that decisive stretch, Roland Park was building momentum. Trailing 28-23 at the half, the Reds got six points in the quarter from sophomore Ja’Niah Henson and pulled within one point on two different occasions. With her team leading 36-35 with 2:12 remaining in the quarter, Nelson, who led the Eagles with a game-high 18 points, took over. She hit back-to-back three-pointers and then a dropped in a lay-up in the final second to stretch the McDonogh lead to 44-35 at the end of three quarters.
McDonogh led by as many as 10 in the first half, but seven straight points by junior Aniyah Carpenter got RPCS back within three and the Reds crept within one, at 24-23, with 1:11 left in the first half.
Again, McDonogh answered, as junior Kayla Liles netted back-to-back baskets to the send the Eagles to intermission with a five-point lead.
“We had to work for that one like we knew we would,” said McDonogh coach Brad Rees. “Every time we play them it’s a battle. I’m proud of the way our club responded. Roland Park kept coming at us and coming at us. We’d stretch it out, and every time we’d seem to have a response.”
Freshman Mir McLean led Roland Park with 16 points, while Henson scored 12 and Carpenter finished with 11 points for the Reds.
“I think we did some really nice things to stay in the game,” said Roland Park coach Scott Buckley. “We mixed the defenses up a little bit. My kids were playing really hard, but every time we go a little spurt, they were right back at us. All I can ask for is for us to play hard and give it everything we’ve got. I think we did that tonight.”
In addition to Dixon’s 18, McDonogh got 13 points from Liles and 10 from Jessica Booth, as well as nine from sophomore AJ Davis.
When asked what it was going to take to knock off St. Frances and win back the IAAM A crown, Nelson simply answered, “Good defense.”
“They are a really good team,” added Nelson. “They can really drive through the paint. Hopefully we all shoot well because, because last time they dropped down into a [zone]. We have to keep them off the boards and play defense.”
Rees echoed those comments.
‘For us the keys are going to be rebounding and shooting. We need to put down some shots and keep them off the offensive boards.
“They are a great team. They have some great individual talent. We’re looking forward to third time. We’re hoping the third time is a charm. In the championship game, everything changes a little bit.”
IAAM A CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL
NO. 2 MCDONOGH SCHOOL 63, NO. 4 ROLAND PARK COUNTRY SCHOOL 49
RPCS 10 13 12 14 — 49
MCD 15 13 16 19 — 63
ROLAND PARK COUNTRY: Carpenter 13, Henson 12, McLean 16, Johnson 3, Green 4, Robinson 1. TOTALS 16 14-19 49.
MCDONOGH: Nelson 18, Green 4, Booth 10, Davis 9, Jacobs 7, Liles 13, Dixon 2. TOTALS: 25 7-9 63.
Last Updated (Friday, 17 February 2017 14:08)