By Nelson Coffin
Third-seeded McDonogh overpowered sixth-seeded St. John’s Catholic Prep in the third quarter of an A Conference semifinal to prevail, 58-35, Wednesday night in Owings Mills to advance to a showdown at second-seeded St. Frances Academy on Friday night.
The survivor of that battle will meet the winner of the other half of the bracket between top-seeded Roland Park Country School and St. Vincent Pallotti, the fourth seed, in the championship on Sunday at Stevenson University.
McDonogh (20-5, 10-4 A Conference) struggled in the first quarter against the Vikings, whose box-and-one defense on standout senior guard Aleah Nelson threw the Eagles off-balance.
SJCP built leads of 11-6 at the end of the first quarter, 17-12 midway through the second period and 26-20 nearing halftime until the Eagles caught fire.
Not only did McDonogh score the game’s final five points before the intermission on a jumper by senior guard Julia Dorsey and a baseline triple by sophomore guard Jayla Oden, they also ran off the first 21 points of the third period while limiting the visitors to just one basket during that span.
All told, the Eagles fashioned a 30-4 run that had the senior-night crowd howling with delight during the critical comeback.
In addition to Dorsey and Oden, senior center AJ Davis, senior guard Treasure Valdez and Nelson took turns sticking daggers in the Frederick school’s upset hopes.
Valdez was especially effective during the spree, feeding Davis for a bucket, draining a three from the wing, converting a feed from junior guard Ava Class for another three, finishing a fastkbreak and nailing yet another bomb from the corner.
She then found Davis in the post for consecutive baskets.
All told, Valdez compiled 11 points and three assists in the period.
“They came out with a little more intensity in the second half,” SJCP coach Brian Martin said. “And we weren’t hitting shots like we were in the first half.”
The Vikings hit four three-balls in the opening half, with junior guard Anna-Patrice LeMaster making a pair and senior guard Julie Brisbane and freshman guard Jaylen McNeil the others.
“This is one of the best shooting teams we’ve ever had,” Martin said after the Vikings concluded the season with a 12-13 record.
McDonogh coach Brad Rees knew his team had its hands full in the first half.
“They’re a good team and they played very well,” he said. “We had more time to make adjustments in the second half and Aleah did a better job of sharing the ball (with Valdez and Oden). We’ve been looking for those third and fourth scoring options.”
Defense, though, is what really made a difference in the second half, Rees said.
“We just ramped up on what we had been doing,” he added. “And we were stepping out on their shooters better.”
ST. PAUL’S TOPS ST. MARY’S
Senior guard Ava Wax made five three-pointers and four players scored in double figures as St. Paul’s School for Girls beat St. Mary’s, 75-46, in a B Conference quarterfinal on Wednesday afternoon in Brooklandville.
Wax led the way for the third-seeded Gators (16-3, 9-2 B Conference) with a game-high 17 points.
Junior guards Destiny Ryles and Alex Sawers had 14 points each and freshman forward Laure Satchel added 13 points for St. Paul’s, which will travel to Essex on Friday to play second-seeded Our Lady of Mount Carmel in a semifinal.
The winner will face either top-seeded Mount de Sales Academy or fifth-seeded Glenelg Country School on Sunday at Stevenson University for the conference title.
St. Mary’s (14-10, 6-5) kept ii close in the first half before St. Paul’s defense stiffened in the second half, as coach Pat Conrad used senior Devan Conrad, sophomore Esprit Cha and freshman Madison Beale to keep the lid on the Saints’ most dangerous offensive weapon, senior Whitney Albert, who still managed to score 14 points in the setback.
Pat Conrad said that while the Cougars play a similar style to the Gators, his team will have to be mindful of stopping senior center/forward Ayana Brim, who stung St. Paul’s for 27 points in a 53-49 victory over SPSG in late January.