The third quarter has been the separating factor for the No. 1 Aberdeen girls basketball team all season, and it made the difference Thursday night as the Eagles avenged last year's state title loss.
The Eagles scored 12 straight points early in the second half to turn a nine-point game into an 80-50 romp over defending champion Frederick in a state Class 3A semifinal at UMBC's RAC Arena. The victory avenged last year's 76-71 loss to the Cadets in the final.
That's something the Eagles (26-1) have been thinking about for a year.
"[That loss] is something we used for motivation," Aberdeen's 6-foot-3 All-Metro center Bri Jones said. "I know I was frustrated last year when we lost, so I just used that feeling and pushed through."
Still the Eagles haven't forgotten that they have one game to go to reach their goal of winning the program's first state title. Saturday, they will meet No. 13 River Hill for the title at 8 p.m. at RAC Arena. The Hawks, who won the title in 2006, edged Westlake, 59-54, in Thursday's other semifinal.
"We have to remember what we're down here for, remember what we've worked hard for the whole season. We can do all the celebrating at the end," Eagles guard Nia Alleyne said.
Jones led the way with 25 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks as the Eagles outscored the Cadets, 36-14, in the paint, but the outside shooters did their part too as senior guards Alleyne and Lakeia Hayden combined for 26 points, including five 3-pointers. Forward Jimmia McCluskey had 14 points.
In last year's final, late foul trouble helped doom the Eagles' title hopes. Thursday night, the fouls started to mount in the second quarter and the Cadets free-throw shooting kept them in the game.
That changed in the second half. After India Dotson cut the Eagles lead to 36-29 with her opening basket, the Eagles shut out the Cadets (20-6) for nearly five minutes while running their lead to 49-29.
"We're not used to the contact fouls," Alleyne said of the change In momentum. "You had to just realize they were calling it a different way than they do back at home. We had to adjust the defense, play real defense and stop reaching and stop falling for pump fakes."
The Eagles, who have lost only to nationally ranked Riverdale Baptist, jumped out to a 12-2 lead, but Frederick guard Lauren Tolson (20 points) hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 12-2 Cadets run. Her short jumper tied the game at 14 less than a minute into the second quarter.
The teams traded baskets before TK Fowlkes fed Jones and then Hayden hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Eagles up 26-16 five minutes before the half. They extended their lead to 56-33 when Hayden fed Jones with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
Frederick coach Keivette Hammond, who returned only two starters from the championship team, said turnovers and rebounding hurt her team in that third quarter.
"Their pressure caused us to turn the ball over and gave them easy opportunities — and also their advantage on the boards [hurt us]," she said." They're a great team. They have the size inside and they're well coached."
A—Alleyne 14, McCluskey 14, Cole 4, Moore 2, Plamer 5, Hayden 12, Fowlkes 4, B.Jones 25. Totals 28 19-33 80.
F—Davies 4, Kaiser 4, Betson 4, Tolson 20, Dotson 14, Mangiafico-Chambers 2. Totals 16 15-21 50. Half: A, 36-27.