Every girl in No. 3 Roland Park's starting lineup can be a force on the boards and when four of them are on the same night, that's a tough combination to beat.
The Reds used a 10-rebound advantage in the third quarter to break open a close game and win 54-45 at No. 6 St. Frances on Friday in a key Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference basketball game.
At halftime, the Reds (15-6, 9-2 conference) had a 20-18 lead, but they boosted that to 35-25 on a Lindsey Edwards free throw with 1:58 left in the third quarter. At that point, Roland Park had out-rebounded the Panthers, 12-3, and finished the quarter with a 15-10 advantage.
"Offensively, we've really been stressing to get second chances. We've got some really good rebounders," Reds coach Scott Buckley said. "We had two kids with nine rebounds (Michala Clay, Jaia Alexander), a kid with eight (Edwards) and one with seven (Bailey Andrews), and when you've got that kind of spread out, you can only keep us off the boards for so long."
The Panthers (13-8, 7-5) had the edge early, taking their biggest lead, 15-9, on Adre'onia Coleman's shot with 6:19 left in the first half. The Reds chipped away until Jeydah Johnson hit a 3-pointer for an 18-15 lead.
Roland Park would never again trail, although the Panthers tied the game twice early in the third quarter before the Reds used a 13-3 run to build their 35-25 lead.
Clay, the Reds' 6-foot-1 forward, struggled with foul trouble in the first half, and Andrews, a 6-foot forward, did not score in the first half, but they combined for nine points — six on follow shots — in the third quarter.
"What changed was our intensity," Clay said. "We had to pick it up. My teammates definitely got me involved in the third quarter, which was very helpful. We stepped up our defense, rebounded more and boxed out more."
The rebounding edge wasn't limited to the offensive end of the floor. After giving up seven second-chance points in the first half, Roland Park didn't allow any in the third quarter.
In addition, they used a balanced offense led by Alexander with 16 points and Edwards with 11.
"We're all about team," said Alexander, who played point guard for much of the game. "We want to hit the open player, and we like to move the ball, because we have weapons in every position and we like to utilize all of those weapons."
The Panthers on Wednesday nearly knocked off No. 1 McDonogh, the only team undefeated in A Conference play. The Eagles needed a buzzer beater from Danielle Edwards to win, 49-47, but St. Frances couldn't put that kind of pressure on the Reds in the second half.
"We made a lot of mental mistakes defensively," Panthers coach Jerome Shelton said. "Our rotations were too slow and we have got to learn that when we struggle defensively it can't carry over to our offense, so that's the maturity we're still not showing."
The Panthers cut the lead to seven with 1:27 left in the game when Coleman hit two free throws and fed Kierra Jackson to pull within 48-41. They had to foul after that, but Edwards, Clay and Alexander each hit a pair of free throws to maintain at least a seven-point Roland Park lead.
With their second win of the season over St. Frances, the Reds stand solidly in second place in the A Conference behind McDonogh (21-2, 12-0), which Roland Park both of its conference losses.
RP—Alexander 16, Edwards 11, Holder 5, Andrews 5, Clay 6, Whitehurst 3, Johnson 6, Carter 2. Totals 18 15-19 54.
SF—Jackson 9, Smith 10, Coleman 16, Alexander 2, Lewis 8. Totals 15 15-25 45. Half: RP, 20-28.