No. 4 Seton Keough made the most of its free-throw chances during Wednesday night's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference quarterfinal against Archbishop Spalding — and that secured the victory in the end.
The host Gators finished with five free throws to hold off a determined Spalding, 49-42.
"We came together on the free-throw line and we were talking about how we needed to pull together as a team. We knew if we did, we could beat them, because we had beaten them twice already," said Gators guard Kayla Bacon.
Seton Keough hit 20 of 30 free throws and Bacon went 8-for-10 from the line. She hit three of four in the final 39 seconds to help hold off the Cavaliers, who shot only 13 free throws in the game.
The Gators (17-7) advance to play at No. 2 McDonogh, the two-time defending A Conference champion, Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Eagles (19-4), who defeated John Carroll 59-35 in their quarterfinal, won both regular-season meetings over the Gators, but barely slipped by 53-51 in the Feb. 3 rematch.
The Gators never trailed Wednesday, but the Cavaliers (8-17) never let it get out of hand. Seton Keough's biggest lead was nine, lastly with about 5:30 left in the fourth quarter.
Summer Fields' basket gave Seton Keough its last big lead at 42-33 before the Cavaliers took off on an 8-2 run. Victoria Reynolds had four points and Erin Baker, who finished with 14 points, scored two during the run. Eva Hubbard capped it with a baseline jumper to pull within 44-41 with 1:33 to go.
Neither team scored another basket, but the Gators hit five of eight free throws in the final 1:28, starting with two from Sydney Mitchell, while the Cavaliers missed all four of their field goal attempts.
"Our problem is consistency," Spalding coach William "Bookie" Rosemond said, adding that at the end, "we just needed some stops and I felt like we were panicking on the offensive end, just trying to rush things. We would throw the ball down to [Reynolds] and they had four white shirts surrounding her. We knew they were going to double-team her and we were like, 'Don't force it. Run your offense and swing the ball around and keep them moving," but we just kind of panicked."
It didn't help the Cavaliers to lose senior forward Katie Callahan to a suspected concussion after a hard fall to the floor with about five minutes to go. Right after that, guard Ryann Evans was called for a charge, her fifth foul. Senior guard Reynolds, who had 13 points and 13 rebounds, fouled out with 32 seconds left.
In the final minutes, the Gators continued to cause trouble with their defense and to challenge on the boards. They outrebounded the Cavaliers 26-11 in the first half and 46-31 for the game.
The Gators, who won their last A Conference championship in 2009, had different players lead the way at different times, a key to their success as a young team.
Bacon led the team with 14 points while forward Brittani Smith added 12, including a couple of 3-pointers, and seven rebounds. Fields, the only senior starter, assisted on the Gators' first three baskets and finished with five assists.
"The good thing about our team this year, and it showed tonight, is our depth is really our strength," Gators coach Tom Gizzi said, "and we never know who is going to step up and make that very important big play. Collectively, they stick together. They play really well together. They play hard. They're really a tough and scrappy team. But we have eight or nine kids that at any moment can make a play."
Seton Keough 49, Spalding 42
SP—Callahan 9, Reynolds 13, Baker 14, Evans 1, Smith 3, Hubbard 2. Totals 15 9-13 42.
SK—Fields 2, Bacon 14, Mitchell 8, Lewis 7, Smith 12, Jennings 2, Emory 4. Totals 13 20-30 49.
Half: SK, 28-22.