Back in early December, the Woodlawn Warriors struggled the entire way against a game group from Dundalk.
The Owls controlled the tempo, hit their shots and held onto a slim lead until the final minutes.
Last night's rematch looked to follow the same story line, as the host Owls used aggressive defense to keep the No. 4 Warriors under wraps.
Until the second half.
Leading by five at halftime, Woodlawn broke loose, outscoring host Dundalk 25-13 in the third quarter en route to a 71-55 Baltimore County 4A-3A League win.
The victory kept the Warriors perfect this season (14-0 overall, 11-0 in the league) and extended their regular-season winning streak to 38.
But it was anything but easy.
Woodlawn struggled from the start, falling behind 10-3 after hitting just one of its first 15 shots from the field.
"We were just in a real offensive funk," said Woodlawn coach Rod Norris, whose team took a five-point halftime lead only after scoring the final four points of the half. "We really won the game in the last part of the first half. We stayed patient and built a lead."
Dundalk (9-6, 8-4), which was led by E'Mar Fleming and Jaquay Jackson (17 points each), kept things close with an aggressive defense that rarely allowed the Warriors an unmolested shot, and used quick hands to deny the ball from Woodlawn scoring leader Guy Butler.
The 6-foot-7 junior, who entered the game averaging 19.5 points and who scored 30 in the teams' last meeting, was held to six points in the first half.
The Owls led 12-10 after a long jump shot by Travis Thornton early in the second quarter, and trailed, 20-19, after Fleming's free throw with a minute left in the half.
But the Owls never challenged again.
After closing the half with four straight points, the Warriors outscored Dundalk 8-2 to start the third quarter, making it 32-21.
"In the second half we started to play possessions," said Norris. "We played smarter basketball and took control."
Senior center Emmanuel Adekunle led the way, scoring a game-high 25 points, including 15 in the second half.
Butler also got untracked, finishing with 19.
For Dundalk, the strategy of collapsing on Woodlawn's big men worked to perfection, until Woodlawn made adjustments in the second half.
"Going in, we knew we had to collapse on them since they had such a good inside game," said Owls coach Andy Pons. "In the second half, they just got a nice little run on us. They didn't let us get the ball in our sets and their pressure just overtook us."
But the real turning point of the game came much earlier. While Woodlawn was firing blanks on 14 of its first 15 shots, Dundalk could build only a four-point lead.
The Owls shot four-of-16 during the stretch and just 21 percent for the half.
"When you get good chances to score on Woodlawn, you've got to take them," said Pons. "The adrenalin was going and we just missed some easy shots."