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McDonogh caps perfect season with fourth straight AIS A title; Eagles win 44th in row, 58-44 over Roland Park



Top-ranked McDonogh put the finishing touch on a 26-0 season last night with a 58-44 victory over No. 4 Roland Park for their fourth straight Association of Independent Schools A Division title at Loyola College's Reitz Arena.

Not only is their season-record perfect, but in the four years that seniors Vicki Brick, Jazmine Norton and Aisha Mason have been on the team, the Eagles have not lost to a single AIS foe.

They also have won 44 straight games -- the area's longest active girls basketball winning streak. No team has won more since Towson Catholic rolled up 70 straight in the mid-80s.

The trio's finale was somewhat anti-climactic, however, because the Eagles took the drama out of the game with an early 13-0 run for a 15-2 edge. The Reds (20-7) never pulled closer than nine and McDonogh eventually ran the lead to 21.

As always, the Eagles' strength is in their teamwork. Brick led the way with 27 points as well as three assists and three steals, but Katie Nelson (13 points, five assists), Greichaly Cepero (seven points, 12 rebounds, four steals), Norton (five points, four steals, two assists) and Mason (four points, five rebounds) all played key roles in the victory as well as the season.

"It's a nice way for everyone to go out," said Brick. "Everyone on this team deserves credit, because on any given night any one of our starters can hurt you. That's what has made this team so dominant. We all realized it's the team."

Since all but Nelson are seniors, last night's final buzzer was followed by mixed emotions.

"It's bittersweet," said Norton, whose Eagles have held the No. 1 ranking since January 1998. "This is the end. It's over. We're gone. We wish we could play together forever."

Last night, the Eagles did not face much of a challenge. The Reds turned the ball over five times in the first six minutes. After Nelson made a three-pointer for an 18-4 lead with 56 seconds left in the first quarter, the outcome was never in doubt.

The Reds began by playing man-to-man, but soon switched to a zone defense for one reason.

"Who can guard Vicki?" said Reds coach Scott Buckley. "Our help defense was better, but they've got all the answers."

Keating moved 5-foot-6 point guard Brick, last season's All-Metro Player of the Year, into the paint to give her more touches and the Eagles' offense more options.

That offense struggled a bit in the second quarter, but after the break, Brick scored from inside time after time despite drawing a crowd of defenders. She scored 14 of the Eagles' 16 third-quarter points -- all from in close or from the free-throw line.

That came despite a solid effort from Reds sophomore forward Kelsey Twist (10 points, eight rebounds).

Adding to the significance of the Eagles victory is that this is the final AIS Tournament. The AIS teams will combine with the Catholic League teams to form a single league next year.

The game also brought to a close a fine career for Roland Park guards Betsy Gaines (11 points, four steals) and Meghan Kelly (eight points), despite losing the last three title games to the Eagles.

Seton Keough 43, Garrison Forest 28: Katie Purper scored 14 and Allison Thompson added 10 as the Gators (14-9) won their second straight AIS B Division title. The Gators' switching defenses sparked an eight-point run to open the fourth quarter, boosting their lead to 37-23 with three minutes to go. Coach Debbi Pearson's Gators have won three of the last four B Division titles.

Pub Date: 2/14/99

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