Randallstown coach Kim Rivers says he'd rather see his team lose to top-caliber opponents than breeze through a cupcake schedule.
Last night, his 12th-ranked Rams once again stepped up in class to challenge third-ranked Southwestern.
For Rivers, an 86-75 home loss to the Sabers was nothing to cry about. It was just one more opportunity for his team to play a tough game before the playoffs.
"By far, this was the best experience my kids could have had going into the state tournament," said Rivers.
"To play the No. 3-ranked team in the area and lose by 11 points, it's nothing that they should be ashamed of."
Southwestern (17-1) won the game with defense, using its swarming full-court pressure to force 17 turnovers and hold the Rams (14-4) to 43-percent shooting.
Led by guards Cornelius McMurray (19 points) and Donte Lloyd (16), the Sabers capitalized on offense, hitting the majority of their open shots, including five three-pointers.
The task was made even tougher for the Rams when leading scorer Brian Broden left the game three minutes into the second quarter with a possible separated right shoulder. He never returned, finishing with two points.
"I think they were all a little tired, but they played when it was time," said Southwestern coach Terry Leverett. "Today they put them away and they made the free throws at crunch time."
After Randallstown had pulled to within two, 44-42, early in the third quarter, Southwestern scored 11 of the next 13 points to build a 55-46 lead with 2:40 left in the period.
The Rams never got closer than six the rest of the way.
"Everybody stepped up," said McMurray. "They're tough, especially with the home crowd, but we hit our open shots, turned up the pressure and pulled it out at the end."