After falling to No. 1 Archbishop Spalding by 19 points last month, the No. 3 McDonogh girls basketball players knew to avenge that loss, they had to successfully battle the powerful Cavaliers in the paint.
In Friday night's rematch, Brianna Jacobs set the tone with eight rebounds in the first quarter and Jamiera Johnson scored the game-winning layup on a feed from Danielle Edwards with 10 seconds left to give the host Eagles a 41-40 upset and deal the Cavaliers their first loss of the season.
Spalding had won 16 straight games since falling to McDonogh in last year's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship. After they paid the Eagles back for that, 51-32 on Dec. 12, and won their first eight conference games, the Cavaliers were the clear favorite to reclaim the title they won in 2011.
That is, until Friday night when the determined Eagles (11-5, 7-1), who often play with four guards, revved up their inside game on both ends of the court. Even though Spalding won the battle of the boards, 43-33, and scored 10 second-chance points, McDonogh put up a much bigger fight than last time.
"We definitely had to get them off the boards, which we tried our best to," said Eagles 6-foot guard Dajah Logan, who finished with 17 points and five rebounds. "We are a pretty small team and we have had to shift positions with some injuries recently, but we did better with boxing out."
In a game that was tied nine times, the Eagles took their biggest lead of the second half when Logan hit a runner and Jacobs (seven points, 12 rebounds) hit two free throws in a 4-1 run that gave McDonogh a 38-34 lead with 2:13 left.
The Cavaliers pulled within 39-38 after Aleah Epps hit both ends of a one-and-one with 1:08 to go. Spalding's defense then forced Edwards to take a 3-point shot as the 30-second clock ran out. Kaila Clark grabbed the rebound for the Cavaliers.
Seconds later, it appeared Spalding had turned the ball over when Jacobs forced Epps over the sideline, but Jacobs was called for a foul and Epps nailed both free throws to put Spalding on top, 40-39.
Edwards, an All-Metro second-team point guard last season, took the inbound pass and dribbled down the court, where she found Johnson alone under the basket for the game-winner with 10 seconds to go.
The Cavaliers took the ball down the sideline again where Epps ran into Jacobs, but this time the play was a turnover.
"I was a bit worried, but I didn't think it was a foul before," Jacobs said, "so I just thought do the same thing again."
Whether they were intimidated or not by the Eagles' determination inside, the Cavaliers took a lot of jump shots, prompting Spalding coach Bookie Rosemond to call out early in the second half: "What's wrong with a layup?"
They ended up shooting just 28 percent from the floor.
"We've been in the gym once in a week," said Rosemond, whose team didn't practice early in the week during exams and couldn't practice Thursday when bad weather canceled after-school activities in Anne Arundel County.
"Against a team like this, a big rivalry game, you've got to be better prepared. We weren't preapred. Seton [Keough] had us by a point at halftime. Roland Park had us by a point at halftime, so we've been getting away with it … and this is a good learning experience for us. You can't be complacent. When you've got a zero next to your name [in the loss column], it doesn't mean you work less hard, it means you've got to work harder."
Jade Scaife led the Cavaliers with 14 points and eight rebounds.
AS—Johnson-Matthews 2, K.Clark 4, Scaife 14, Chestnut 7, Epps 9, Calhoun 4. Totals 13 13-23 40.
M—Robinson 2, Edwards 11, Jacobs 7, Logan 17, Johnson 4. Totals 17 6-9 41. Half: 22-22.