Archbishop Spalding girls basketball coach Paul Leimkuhler had hopedfor a less strenuous test than his team received from Catholic League B Division foe John Carroll yesterday.

After playing nine Baltimore metropolitan area-ranked teams in his first 12 games and with a four-game week facing his squad, the seventh-year coach expected his team to suffer from a slight letdown.

The Patriots from Harford County (5-6) gave the Cavaliers (7-6) all they could handle for 3 quarters, finally surrendering to the hosts' superior bench strength in a 64-42 decision.

"They had a very scrappy team that got up and down the floor very well," said Leimkuhler. "They had some freshmen and sophomores that could really handle the ball. They're much improved from last year."

Spalding's Mar Aquado tied John Carroll's Amy Dean for game-high scoring honors with 13. Jackie Cordery added 10 for the winners.

Spalding finally pulledaway from the visitors by going on a 3 -minute, 12-0 tear, expandingthe lead from 45-36 to 57-36 in the fourth quarter. Backup center Karen Keely netted six of her eight points -- four off offensive rebounds and another on a turnaround bank shot -- during the pivotal stretch run.

John Carroll guard Amity Torbit's four points ended her team's scoring drought with a breakaway layup with 2 minutes, 10 secondsleft in the game.

Amy Langville, who entered the game with a team-high scoring average of 11.4 points per game, was held to just one point. But the 5-foot-7 senior guard contributed seven assists, seven rebounds and two blocked shots for the Cavs.

"Amy took at least 10shots, but nothing seemed to fall in for her. However, I was very pleased with her ball-handling, passing and defense," said Leimkuhler.

Spalding began the game with a 16-6 first-quarter lead, thanks to three buckets by Aquado, and four points by Cordery. Aquado hit two buzzer-beating baskets during the first half -- a breakaway layup at the end of the first quarter and a three-pointer from the right wing to end the half.

"Mar had been doing a great job coming off of the bench during the early part of the season," said Leimkuhler of his 5-6 transfer from Spain. "I knew that by giving her a lot of time on the court in December, she'd play with a lot of experience come January.

"Our bench as a whole did a tremendous job. Kelly Mabe (five points), Keely and Lynn Henkel (nine points, six rebounds) all had good games. I'm very pleased with their progress."

John Carroll slowly but surely began closing the gap during the second stanza, pulling towithin four at 22-18 on a 15-footer by Dean with 4:53 remaining in the quarter. A layup by Kristin Purcella (11 points) brought the Pats to within six before the Cavs reeled off five straight to close the quarter.

The Patriots held Spalding scoreless for the first two minutes of the third quarter, behind the defensive rebounding of center Carrie Stevenson (12 rebounds, four points). During the mini-drought,the Pats hit 2-of-4 free throws -- a sharp contrast from the first half, when they sank their first 6-of-8, finishing the game at 8-of-14(57 percent).

"This was a very good win for us. A lot of subs gota chance to play, and we're over .500. I think they'll be able to handle (the four-game schedule) next week. Anything to avoid practice,"said Leimkuhler.

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