Locked in a tight back-and-forth game for much of its 3A East region Section I semifinal contest against River Hill, Glenelg finished with poise and confidence on both ends of the floor Tuesday night.
The Gladiators closed the game on a 14-4 run, 10 of those points coming from the foul line, to pull away for a 72-58 victory. Jess Foster scored 22 points, while Chelsea Henggeler added 14, to pace the offensive attack for a Glenelg (19-4) squad that advances into a match-up with Long Reach on Thursday.
"We pressed the whole entire second half and I think it really helped us finally be able to pick up the tempo. We got some girls some open shots, we hit our free throws and overall the girls played well," Glenelg coach Chris Beil said.
River Hill (10-13), which put together a big second quarter to sit tied at 35-35 with the Gladiators at the half, got a season-high 28 points from Sydney Poindexter in the loss. The Hawks' senior forward was particularly big in terms of keeping things tight early in the fourth quarter as she accounted for 12 straight River Hill points during one stretch.
But Glenelg stayed focused and never waivered from its game plan. Holding a four-point advantage, 58-54, with just under four minutes left in regulation, the backcourt duo of Foster and Miranda Mattis (9 points) began attacking the rim and getting themselves to the foul line.
Six straight made free throws later, Glenelg had tied its largest lead of the night up until that point, 64-54. Foster, who was face-guarded by River Hill most of the evening, said that teamwork up-and-down the roster went a long way.
"I've actually struggled with face-guarding for all of my high school career so far, but I've got to say that my teammates did a great job getting me open and making great plays when I couldn't get the ball," Foster said. "They rocked it and it was really a team victory tonight."
River Hill never got closer than eight in the final two minutes, with Glenelg calmly converting from the foul line. The Gladiators finished 12-for-14 shooting free throws in the fourth quarter.
"They went to the free throw line a lot more than we did and they are a good free-throw shooting team that was able to capitalize on that," said River Hill coach Theresa Waters.
Waters added that Poindexter's effort was everything she could have hope for and she actually would have liked to see her touch the ball even more in crunch time.
"I can honestly say we got out of synch and stopped going to her in the second half. Sydney was playing like there was no tomorrow," Waters said. "I have to take my hat off to her, because she left it all out on the floor today."
Glenelg had gotten up by as many as eight, 15-7, in the first quarter, but River Hill regrouped behind Poindexter, Jess Hopkins (9 points) and Sarah Dawit (11) to come all the way back and grab a 35-32 advantage in the second quarter.
It took a 3-pointer with the clock winding down before halftime by Glenelg's Peighton Stone (6 points) to tie the game up.
"River Hill is just a really great defensive team. They are scrappy, they have effort and so much heart, so you know it's going to be difficult," Foster said. "Going into halftime, we knew we had to start talking more — that's something we had been working a lot on at practice the past week. Our communication wasn't where we wanted it in the first half."
After intermission, though, Glenelg got on the same page to put together a 14-4 to open the third quarter and take its first 10-point lead, 49-39. River Hill fought back to the four-point deficit midway through the fourth, but the tone had been set.