HAGERSTOWN -- Its mettle being tested by tenacious St. Maria Goretti, No. 1 Archbishop Spalding applied defensive heat in the third quarter to reignite its stalled offense yesterday and eventually cook the pesky Gaels, 71-60.
Spalding (19-2, 8-0) sailed to a 20-11 first-quarter lead in the Catholic League game in Goretti's crammed gym, then hit scoring doldrums for the first 5: 06 of the second quarter to the loud home crowd's glee, falling into a 31-24 halftime hole.
Cavaliers coach Tony Martin, who at times held up 8x10 printed cards to communicate with his players on the floor, so loud was the cheering and band, said the offensive misfiring -- four points for the quarter -- occurred when his team tried a slower, half-court pace.
Moving the ball surely on offense, Goretti not only scored 20 in the quarter, but dominated the boards at both ends, rarely permitting Spalding second shots.
"We were just stalling, trying for good shots," said Spalding's Derrick Snowden, who scored a game-high 22 points. "We weren't taking care of the ball."
Said Martin: "Seven down on the road at half was definitely an uphill battle for us. But our kids really believe in themselves. We play so many tough games we have gotten to the point where we do not rattle easily. We came back strong."
For the third quarter, Martin ordered his quicker players out of their zone defense back into a trapping press. The faster tempo and pressure eventually forced the Gaels (21-4, 5-3) into turnovers and missed shots, resulting in several fast-break baskets for Spalding.
"We let it slip away in the third quarter," said Goretti coach Cokey Robertson. "It's too bad we had to take a halftime break. Once they got rolling, we couldn't stop them."
Two free throws by Snowden followed by senior sub James Bowen's layup and foul shot halfway through the third period gave the Cavaliers a 37-35 lead.
The Cavaliers never trailed again, although two punishing power moves by 6-foot-5 senior center Brad Runkles resulted in five points and trimmed the home team's deficit to 54-51 with approximately four minutes left.
Martin called timeout. And from that point, the game became a parade of Spalding free-throw attempts, as the Gaels fouled in an attempt to stop the clock. The tactic backfired, as the Cavaliers hit 11 of 13 free-throw attempts in the final 3 1/2 minutes.
In that same span, Goretti mustered only two baskets from the field, both with about a minute left after Spalding built 10-point leads.
Goretti's top scorers were senior Jamie Rice (16) and Runkles (15).
The loss was Goretti's second straight in Catholic League play. The Gaels beat Spalding twice last season, but Spalding has swept this season's games, having also won last month in Severn, 75-71.
Pub Date: 2/01/99