Experience often pays off the most late in a close game.
That certainly was the case yesterday at Seton Keough, where visiting and No. 2 St. Mary's was able to find the necessary answers in the closing minutes to walk away with a 45-42 Catholic League win over the No. 3 Gators.
In an afternoon filled with offensive spurts from both sides, the Saints had the all-important final run when they outscored the Gators, 9-2, over the last three minutes, turning a four-point deficit into their seventh win in as many tries this season, improving to 4-0 in league play.
Seton Keough falls for the first time, dropping to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the league.
"Those kids have played in so many big games, you could see how composed they were down the stretch," said Seton Keough coach Jim Stromberg.
This time, it was senior guard Terri Daniels' turn to pick it up for the Saints. She rebounded, provided a key assist and was relentless in getting to the basket -- scoring six of her eight points in the final minutes, including a pivotal three-point play to provide the winning margin with 32 seconds left.
The only thing Daniels didn't do late was hit a free throw with 11 seconds left to put the game away. Instead, the Gators had one last chance to tie the game with a three-pointer at the buzzer, but Meaghan Allan's hurried try from the right corner didn't find anything as the Saints got the early upper hand in the league standings.
"We have a leg up now, but there's still a long way to go -- 12 more battles still to come in the Catholic League," said St. Mary's coach Harry Dobson. "Our kids got plenty of heart and they weren't going to be denied."
Early in the second quarter, it didn't look like the Saints would need any last-minute heroics as their perimeter game began to take control.
Junior Tobi McIntire hit a jumper to provide an 11-8 lead with 6: 40 left in the half. Next came the threes -- first from senior Emily Lipton, then McIntire, then it was senior Maria Smear's turn to connect -- all coming in the middle of a 15-0 run that provided the Saints with a 23-8 lead with 3: 22 left.
Seton Keough junior Denise King got the Gators back in the game with five of her game-high 20 points in the last three minutes of the first half, and when Allan hit a three-pointer with 30 seconds left, the St. Mary's lead was down to 23-16 at the break.
"We didn't do a great job defensively in the beginning [of the second quarter] and they were knocking down some shots," said Stromberg. "We just wanted to hang in there, and then Meaghan hit the big three-pointer. We felt pretty good going into halftime down seven."
Lipton picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter and the Gators continued to chip away at the Saints' lead. When junior Nikki Brown converted a three-point play with 6: 22 left in regulation, Seton Keough had its first lead (36-34) since early in the first quarter.
Tied at 42 with under a minute left, the Saints looked to Daniels, who drove the left side, was tripped up, but still managed to get the shot through while falling. She then completed the three-point play.
"Terri did a good job getting to the basket, either scoring or kicking the ball back out," said senior center Felicia Holloway, who finished with four points, eight rebounds and four steals. "We're pretty comfortable late in games and know someone will step up."
Pub Date: 12/20/98