After Seton Keough High’s girls’ basketball team’s lost to McDonogh School last week, Gators coach Jackie Boswell called out her seniors for a lack of leadership in the closing stretch of the regular season. They got the message.

In one of its best performances of the season, No. 5 Seton Keough throttled the fourth-ranked Eagles, 54-33, in an IAAM A Conference semifinal Thursday evening in Owings Mills. The Gators will return to Championship Sunday this weekend to take on No. 1 Archbishop Spalding at Goucher College for the crown.

Senior guard Amber Singletary led all scorers with 15 points for Seton Keough (19-7 overall), and fellow seniors Liz Brown and Achiri Ade added 13 and 12 points, respectively. Tiersa Winder and Candice Hendricks each had 10 points to lead McDonogh (20-7).

The west Baltimore school led by as many as 24 points, soundly avenging a 54-50 decision on the same court that decided the No. 2 seed in the tourney. It was the third loss in the final five league games for the Gators, who were once the clear cut No. 2 team in the area behind nationally-ranked Spalding.

They got their swagger back Thursday.

“I think we really worked hard in the past week since that last game,” said Boswell. “It really comes down to the seniors really wanting this bad. I thought every single one stepped up. We watched a lot of film yesterday so I thought that helped us defensively.”

“Last week, it definitely wasn’t us playing team ball,” said Singletary. “We got into the gym and made sure we got back to what we’ve doing all year-passing the ball and good defense. We use defense to spark our offense.”

From the opening tip, Seton Keough suffocated the Eagles, racing out to a 15-3 lead as Singletary, who had only two points in the previous meeting, produced seven in the first eight minutes. The Gators closed the first half with an 8-0 run, capped by Ade’s basket in the paint for a 27-10 halftime advantage.

Offensive rebounds and scores by Brown and Ade sparked an 11-0 surge that ended with senior point Rianna Fraser finding Brown in the paint for a layup and a commanding 40-16 cushion with two minutes remaining in third. Brown, who scored 11 points in the second half, said her classmates took Boswell’s words to heart.

“We weren’t showing any leadership on the court,” said Brown, a 6-foot-5 center headed to the University of Richmond. “We had a lot of things to work on this week. I think today everyone followed through.”

achiri ade, liz brown and amber singletary“We didn’t want them [McDonogh] to get into the game,” said Ade, whose team never trailed Thursday. “We wanted to dominate the game throughout.”

On the footstep of its first trip to the league finals since 2007, the proverbial door was dropped on McDonogh. Second-chance offensive efforts that helped pushed them last week, was non-existent Thursday against a fully engaged Gator squad.

“They have the experience of playing in these types of playoff games and we haven’t,” said Eagles coach Brad Rees. “They outhustled us and once they got off to the good start, we couldn’t recover. We started pushing and got away from what we do well.”

“We have to learn how to focus on us and not what they’re doing,” said McDonogh senior point guard Taryn Durant. “It was just terrible. We needed to work harder.”

It will be Round Three Sunday at 5 p.m. for Seton Keough and Spalding with possession of the IAAM championship glass bowl on the line. The Cavaliers, ranked No 15 in the latest USA Today Super 25, handled St. Vincent Pallotti, 73-46, in Thursday’s other semifinal.

Spalding won both regular season matches, 63-58 (2 OTs) and 49-36. The Gators will be playing in their third championship game in four seasons.

“It’s definitely a challenge, they’re one of the better teams we’ve played all year,” said Singletary. “We just have to play like every other game, come out hard and everything will take care of itself.”

No. 5 Seton Keough 54, No. 4 McDonogh School 33
Seton Keough1512151254
Seton Keough: Brown 13, Singletary 15, Fraser 8, Ade 12, Wilson 4, Hines 2. Totals: 22 9-12 54.
McDonogh: Durant 4, Cummings 9, Winder 11, Winder 10, Hendricks 10. Totals: 12 6-11 33.
Halftime: Seton Keough 27, McDonogh 10