A couple of months ago, McDonogh School girls’ basketball team started its season with underclassmen replacing three graduated starters. In the second week, a returning starter went down for season with an injury.
But through the ups-and-downs, the Owings Mills school slowly progressed. Now, the Eagles are a win away from being champions again.
No. 2 McDonogh School advanced to the IAAM A Conference title game with a 49-37 semifinal victory over 10th ranked St. Frances Academy Thursday evening. Sophomore guard Danielle Edwards led all scorers with 20 points and Dajah Logan added 15.
The second-seeded Eagles (21-6 overall) pulled away from the third-seed Panthers (15-11) in the third quarter to punch their return ticket to the finals. Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. at Goucher College, McDonogh will rematch with No. 2 Archbishop Spalding for possession of the league’s championship glass bowl.
The top-seeded Cavaliers eliminated Roland Park Country School, 61-52, Thursday evening in Severn. McDonogh, which handed Spalding its only loss this season (41-40), ended the Anne Arundel County school’s title reign with a stunning come-from-behind victory a year ago at UMBC.
Spalding punished the Eagles in the team’s first meeting back in December, but McDonogh has been playing with more confidence since the start of the new year.
“The amount we have grown since December has been tremendous,” said Eagles coach Brad Rees. “We’re playing nine to 10 kids, everyone is contributing.”
“At the beginning of the season I was feeling a little shaky, we lost three seniors then Hannah [Rees] got injured,” said Edwards, who started every game as a freshman last season. “I couldn’t be any more proud of our team. I never thought we would be standing here after winning the game to get to the championship.”
She was a huge reason Thursday, scoring 18 points in the opening half as McDonogh, which overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to beat St. Frances in overtime more than a week ago, established a 30-24 halftime advantage.
The second half belonged to Logan, who scored all her 15 points on mid-range jumpers and points in the paint. The 6-foot sophomore guard/forward admitted December was “nerve-racking.”
“I didn’t know if I was supposed to be more of a defender, more of a scorer, more of a passer,” said Logan. “I figured out that I needed to do a little of everything, but step up a little more.”
Logan converted a layup off a pass from Edwards, followed with a short jumper as McDonogh extended its lead into double digits, 37-27. The Eagles led, 41-29, after three with sophomore forward Jamiera Johnson beating the clock with an offensive board and basket.
“She [Logan] struggled in the first half with foul trouble but I’m proud at how she stepped up her game,” said Rees. “She hit some huge buckets. We got to have her play like that for us to be successful.”
Georgetown University recruit Tyshell King led St. Frances with 13 points, and junior Andreonia Coleman finished with 10. The Panthers managed just four field goals over the final 16 minutes of regulation.
Longtime St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton said Edwards established the tone for McDonogh.
“That’s the engine for them, she gets everyone involved,” said Shelton, who graduates just two seniors off his roster. “We had chances to score in the second half and we didn’t. When you’re playing playoff basketball, everything counts.”
It will count Sunday as McDonogh and Spalding collide again for supremacy in the area’s premier girls’ basketball league. Last year, the Eagles overcame a 22-point first half deficit to claim the program’s first title in nearly two decades.
No team has repeated since St. Frances’ run of six straight from 2003 to 2008.
“We had 49 practices and at the bottom of each daily practice sheet says Feb. 17,” said Rees. “It’s been our goal all year long and we’ve got there.”
IAAM A Conference semifinals
No. 3 McDonogh School 49, No. 2 St. Frances Academy 37
St. Frances – King 10, Coleman 10, Bell 3, Belt 3, Alexander 8. Totals 12 12-22 37.
McDonogh – Robinson 2, Edwards 20, Robb 3, Jacobs 4, Wynn 3, Logan 15, Johnson 2. Totals 16 9-23 49.
St. Frances 14 10 5 8 – 37
McDonogh 13 17 11 8 – 49