Archbishop Spalding's girls basketball team went to McDonogh Wednesday night riding an eight-game winning streak and looking to avenge an early-season loss to the Eagles.
Instead, the No. 3 Eagles improved their winning streak to 16 straight games, using their relentless pressure defense and their ability to handle the No. 4 Cavaliers' press to take a 66-49 victory in a physical battle for first place in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.
"Our hustle makes a big difference. We hustle hard," said guard Tiersa Winder, who lead the Eagles with 19 points. "We know we come out a little slow most of the time, but this game was different. We came out pounding. We came out charged to win this game. We knew how big an impact it would have."
The Eagles, who improve to 18-1 overall and 10-0 in the A Conference, used a 14-point spurt in the first quarter to take their first lead and then fought off every run the Cavaliers tried to mount. Spalding, who could have tied the Eagles for first place with a win, opened the second half with a nine-point run to pull within 17-16, but McDonogh maintained a small edge through the rest of the half and opened a 17-point lead late in the third quarter.
With her hall-handling and poise, freshman point guard Danielle Edwards made it impossible for the Cavaliers (13-6, 7-2) to succeed with their press while she and guard Taylor Cummings led a frenetic Eagles press that helped cause 26 Spalding turnovers.
"They're very tough to press," Cavaliers coach Bookie Rosemond said. "You can't get too many easy baskets. That little point guard is very good, and they've got some good off-guards, so we weren't able to create offense from our defense, and conversely, they play very tough full-court man-to-man defense. They disrupt your half court. It's tough to get into a half court [offense]."
The Cavaliers played mostly a zone defense in their 56-39 loss on Dec. 14, so this time Rosemond tried to press, but Edwards led a patient, disciplined attack that wove right through the pressure.
In the fourth quarter, Spalding cut the lead to nine on Raven Makins' follow shot, but when Spalding missed its next shot, Cummings grabbed the rebound and fed Winder with a long pass for a 44-33 lead with 6:48 to go. The Eagles extended the lead to 57-39 with 2:08 to go on Brianna Jacobs' layup.
When the Cavaliers started fouling in the final 1:31, Winder, Edwards (18 points) and Cummings (11 points) combined to hit 9-of-10 from the line.
"This team has that extra sense of when it's time to turn it up. They get it," McDonogh coach Brad Rees said. "They came out in the third quarter and really set the tone. The same thing happened in the first game. We had that early 10-point lead and they made the run. You know they're coming and we talked about that. This is a good win for us."
The Cavaliers, the defending IAAM A Conference champs, could get another chance at the Eagles, but probably not unless both teams reach the conference final Feb. 18 at UMBC.
AS—Sciafe 6, Chestnut 12, Epps 8, Griffith 3, Calhoun 5, Makins 13, K.Clark 2. Totals 16 14-22 49.
M—Kobb 1, Rees 9, Edwards 18, Cummings 11, Winder 19, Jacobs 8. Totals 18 24-36 66. Half: M, 28-21.