If South Carroll coach Liz Padgett could bottle the intensity her team played with in the final three minutes at Mount de Sales on Saturday afternoon, opponents will be hard-pressed to beat the Cavaliers all season.
Trailing by eight, 36-28, after Sailor junior Gabby Cha made two free throws with three minutes left, the Cavaliers (6-2) scored the next nine points and pulled off a 37-36 victory in the 26th Annual Holly and Hoops Basketball Tournament.
Junior Nikki Levy made a pair of layups with nine seconds apart and turned a 36-34 deficit into a 37-36 lead with 55 seconds left.
The host Sailors (5-3) got four shots in the final 55 seconds, but they couldn’t net the game-winner.
An inbounds pass from Eve Lukowski (13 points, 8 rebounds) to Gabby Cha (15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) led to a possible game-winning shot, but her shot bounced off the rim to 5-foot-4-inch Katie Sauter in the paint and she couldn’t get off a shot over 6-foot Makeba Ndifang.
“We had a good shot,” Mount de Sales coach Trish Armstrong said. “We had a very good South Carroll team on the ropes and we just need to learn how to finish the game.”
It appeared the Sailors knew how to do that when they turned a 26-22 third-quarter lead into a 32-22 advantage after a 6-0 run spearheaded by the defense.
South Carroll, who lost 42-34 to Catonsville in the opening round of the tournament, didn’t get off a shot in its first five possessions of the fourth quarter, that resulted in three forced turnovers and a pair of blocked shots by Lukowski.
South Carroll’s first basket came on a layup by Paige Baxter (7 points) with 4:53 left, cutting the deficit to 32-24.
Ensuing layups by Kristine Tennyson (10 points) and Ndifang (9 points, 10 rebounds) made it 34-28 before Chai’s free throws preceded the game-ending 9-0 Cavalier run.
“That was good for us because we’ve been looking for that intensity,” South Carroll coach Padgett said. “The girls have played hard and they always come ready to play, but it’s that intensity. I didn’t pinpoint exactly where that happened, tonight, but Paige Baxter had two huge defensive forced turnovers, Makeba finally got some shots and Nikki Levy started taking it to the rim. Those itty, bitty things just got them fired up. They need those all the time.”
The Sailors forced 29 turnovers, but committed 27, while only shooting 25 percent from the floor.
Cha and Lukowski, who had 20 points in a 67-32 win over North Harford on Friday, combined for 28 of the Sailors’ 36 points.
Senior Jasmine Couvillion (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Sammi Gillis (2 points) were the others on the scoreboard, but Amanda Donovan contributed five rebounds, while Sauter added four rebounds and an assist and Annie Tavara had a pair of steals and a rebound.
The Sailors played only seven players, with starter Caroline Williams out with an injury.
“She’s a key contributor,” Armstrong said.
Despite the tough loss, Armstrong hopes her team can learn when they resume the Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference schedule.
The Sailors are currently 2-1 in conference play.
“They have to learn how to win those close games,” Armstrong said.