Century's girls basketball team had to rely on its perimeter game in the first half Friday night against South Carroll, but the Knights found the inside openings to give them the edge later on.
Alice Mercer cut across the baseline for a key layup in the final minutes and forward Jamie Clark scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half to lead the host Knights to a 40-37 victory over their next-door neighbors that gave them sole possession of first place in Carroll County.
"This is a phenomenal win just because they're our rivals first of all," Clark said, "and they beat us last year, so it's good to come back and win this time."
In a defensive game that neither team led by more than three until midway through the third quarter, Tess Nichols saw Mercer free on the baseline with 1:24 left and fed her for the layup to boost Century's lead to 36-31. Clark was fouled on a rebound at the other end and hit both free throws to give the Knights the biggest lead of the night by either team, 38-31.
Cavaliers guard Nikki Heim, who finished with 20 points, cut the margin to 40-35 on a 3-pointer with 6.8 seconds to go. Even though Heim quickly fouled Mercer, who missed both ends of the double bonus, the Cavaliers didn't have time to erase the deficit in 5.8 seconds.
Early on, Cavaliers 5-foot-11 junior forward Makeba Ndifang gave Century matchup problems on the inside. She grabbed 18 rebounds but struggled with foul trouble and scored only six points, all in the first quarter.
Nichols, a sophomore guard who finished with 10 points, hit two of her three 3-pointers in the first half, including one with 36 seconds left to give the Knights a 16-15 halftime edge.
With Ndifang on the bench much of the third quarter with three fouls, the Knights looked more to Clark, a 5-foot-9 junior who also had 10 rebounds. She capped a three-point play less than three minutes into the second half to give the Knights the lead — although never a big one — for good at 20-17.
"We just kept our composure," Clark said. "In tough games when it comes down to the nitty gritty like this game, we just keep our heads held high and we just focus."
The Knights also used their quickness to cause trouble for the Cavaliers, tightening up the inside as well as forcing some key turnovers with their pressure late in the game.
"I thought they started sinking in more on defense on the inside," Cavaliers coach Liz Padgett said of the Knights' second-half effort. "We couldn't find Makeba for anything. We've got to get the guards who aren't being guarded to come to that ball. They're two sophomores and that's OK. They're learning and we'll get there. Century played their hearts out."
Coach Joel Beard's Knights improved to 11-1 overall and 6-1 in the Carroll County standings. The rivals meet again on Feb. 10 at South Carroll where the Cavaliers (8-4, 5-2) will try to even the score.
SC—Tennyson 2, Ndifang 6, Levy 8, Heim 20, Duffy 1. Totals 11 14-21 37.
C—Mercer 6, Jones 4, Bordner 2, Flister 1, Clark 16, Syder 1, Nichols 10. Totals 13 10-21 40. Half: C, 16-15.