The expected showdown between Howard High's Mona Jackson and South Carroll's Nicole Spencer never materialized last night.
Jackson was out of town, leaving Spencer free to dominate the middle against the previously unbeaten Lions.
Spencer, a 5-foot-10 junior, pulled down 13 rebounds and scored 11 points to lead the Cavaliers to a 39-23 victory over the Lions at South Carroll.
Spencer scored most of her points on follow shots off her misses inside, and could have had a lot more points if she had just an average shooting night.
But most of the evening, Spencer couldn't get her shots to fall and contributed to South Carroll's 32.7 percent shooting effort from the field.
The South Carroll standout, coming off knee surgery last season, still seems unsure of the knee and is pressing too hard to regain the skills she displayed for 10 games as a sophomore before she tore the anterior cruciate ligament.
However, Spencer and the Cavaliers (2-1) were able to get away with an off night last night against the Lions (3-1).
Without Jackson, a 5-foot-9 junior who averaged 22 points and 14 rebounds in the first three games, Howard was no match for South Carroll.
The Lions shot only 20 percent from the field and went for long stretches without scoring. They were able to stay in the game in the first quarter, but the home team pulled away to a 20-9 lead at halftime.
When Erin Nauyalis scored in the lane to run the lead to 27-11 midwaythrough the third quarter, this one was virtually over.
Melissa Gettemy and Amber Clutter joined Spencer in the spotlight last night for South Carroll, with Gettemy scoring 8 points and grabbing 12 rebounds and Clutter running the offense superbly.
Clutter also had six points, five assists and five steals.
Howard coach Craig O'Connell thought his team would fare much better than it did without Jackson.
"I thought it might be good for us to play without her," he said. "We did what we wanted to defensively, holding them to 39 points but we must have missed 20 shots in a row at one time. You can't win if you don't score."
O'Connell said his game plan was to shut down Clutter and Gettemy from the outside and give Spencer her points.
"Clutter and Gettemy combined for 14 points which wasn't too bad but we had to score more," said the Howard coach, who lost three starters from his state 3A semifinal team last season.
For O'Connell, last night's loss was the sixth in six games he has coached on the South Carroll floor.
"The first five were by three points and now this," he said.
South Carroll coach Al Skierski was satisfied with his team's active play on defense out of a 1-3-1 zone and a man-to-man.
But he wants his players to calm down a little.
"We're trying to give 150 percent and it's not working," he said. "Nicole is missing too many easy shots. We do well in practice and then we're tight when the game starts."