For the first time all season, the No. 1 Aberdeen girls basketball team ran into an opponent Saturday that was as quick as the Eagles and able to challenge 6-foot-3 All-Metro center Bri Jones in the paint.
Still, No. 7 Dunbar could not stop the Eagles from finally breaking away in a game that was tied with five minutes to go.
Aberdeen, which drifted away from its inside game at times, went back to Jones and forward TK Fowlkes in the end, and the duo combined for 12 of Aberdeen's final 17 points in a 60-48 victory in the Basketball Academy at Lake Clifton.
"We realized that whatever it was we were doing just wasn't working," Eagles guard Nia Alleyne said. "We just needed to slow the game back down and get the ball on the inside. Hopefully, Bri would have a move or find TK open, or if not, she would pass it back out to us, so we could slow the ball down. We were rushing it."
The Eagles (16-0) also struggled with their outside shooting and weren't as sharp all around as they had been in Friday's 67-38 win over No. 2 Digital Harbor.
"We didn't have legs today," Eagles coach Stacy Liles said. "They're a good team, and I think they knew we played last night against a hard team and they knew we were going to be tired. And [Dunbar coach Wardell Selby] executed on the things he knew would hurt us. It was tough, but it was nice to see the focus in trying to pull it out."
The Poets (11-5) led going into the final three minutes of the third quarter. They used their up-tempo game and a strong effort from Michelle Wright and Damisha Hazelton doubling down on Jones to build as much as an eight-point advantage. But the momentum quickly changed when Wright, a powerful 5-foot-9 All-Metro forward, went to the bench with four fouls with 2:34 left in the quarter.
"We figured we would give up the outside shot and not let Bri get started," Selby said, "and it worked real well in the second half, but Michelle picked up her fourth foul and that changed the whole flow of the game for us. The girls really depend on Michelle a lot."
The Poets seemed rattled without Wright, and the Eagles made their first break.
A 12-2 Aberdeen run gave them a 41-35 lead when Lakeia Hayden fed Fowlkes for a layup to open the fourth quarter. Wright came off the bench with 6:43 left and promptly made a steal and fed Brianna Lawson for a layup to spark an 8-2 Poets run to tie at 43 with 4:59 to go.
Jones gave Aberdeen the lead for good with two baskets, and the Eagles built even more momentum when freshman guard Kierra Palmer hit a 3-pointer and then made a steal and fed Alleyne for a 52-46 lead with 2:47 remaining. The Poets never recovered.
Jones finished with 21 points and 19 rebounds while Fowlkes added 13 points and five rebounds. Wright had 23 points and 15 rebounds while teammate Shylia Buie scored 11 points.
No. 2 Digital Harbor 49, Randallstown 22: Digital (14-5) rebounded from Friday's loss to No. 1 Aberdeen behind a balanced offense. A'Lexus Harrison had 10 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks. Her teammate Miqueara Lewis had 12 points and 11 rebounds while Infiniti Alston added 11 points. For the Randallstown, Tiffany Davis had seven points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
No. 1 Aberdeen 60, No. 7 Dunbar 48
D—Guthrop 1, Johnson 5, Buie 11, Lawson 6, Wright 23, Hazelton 2. Totals 16 12-24 48.
A—Norton 2, Alleyne 9, McCluskey 8, Palmer 5, Hayden 2, Fowlkes 13, B.Jones 21. Totals 22 15-27 60. Half: D, 27-21.
No. 2 Digital Harbor 49, Randallstown 22
DH—Gaither-McDonald 2, Parks 4, Carroll 5, Harrison 10, Alston 11, Alexander 5, Lewis 12. Totals 20 8-18 49.
R—Byam 2, Brooks 5, Tate 3, Davis 7, Stinnete 3, Fakuade 2. Totals 5 12-30 22.