Just when it appeared that the St. Mary's girls basketball team was going to spiral deeper into a late-season funk, Bri Gauthier took the initiative.
The freshman point guard scored nine of her game-high 14 points in the fourth quarter to propel the No. 17 Saints to a 46-34 victory over visiting Mount de Sales in an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference game in Annapolis yesterday.
Gauthier, who is averaging 11.9 points a game this season, did most of her damage at the free-throw line, where she connected on 10 of 13 attempts - seven of them in the final period.
Gauthier said she wasn't concerned about scoring.
"If I was open, I would shoot it, but I was looking for the open player," said Gauthier, who also chipped in eight rebounds and three assists. "It just happened that way."
St. Mary's four-guard set of Gauthier, junior Julie Gladchuk, and freshmen Bridget Noon and Breon Summers combined to score 39 points, accounting for 84.8 percent of the team's output.
Noon and Summers each recorded nine points, while Gladchuk posted seven points and four rebounds.
More importantly, the win helped the Saints (15-9 overall and 6-9 in the conference) end a three-game losing skid.
St. Mary's is 3-7 since Jan. 1, but coach Harry Dobson said he is hopeful that yesterday's victory is a positive sign.
"I'm glad we won because I think it was starting to [frustrate] the kids," Dobson said. "I know it was starting to [frustrate] me because I don't sleep too well when I'm trying to figure out how to score more points."
Employing tight man-to-man coverage from the start, Mount de Sales broke a 4-4 tie with a 6-1 run to take a 10-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Sailors inflated the advantage to seven at 16-9 less than two minutes into the second period, but Gauthier scored five points to fuel a 9-2 run that knotted the game at 18 at halftime.
Both teams traded baskets in the third quarter until Summers sank two free throws and converted a layup off a steal to give St. Mary's a 28-24 lead.
Although Mount de Sales scored the next three points to close the gap to a single point at the end of the third, the Saints broke open the game in the fourth by scoring eight of the period's first 10 points.
The Sailors did cut the deficit to four when sophomore point guard Nicole Holtman (six points and four rebounds) hit a driving jumper and an ensuing free throw for a three-point play, but Gauthier scored the final eight points to clinch the win.
Junior forward Heather O'Donnell registered nine points, three rebounds and three blocks for Mount de Sales (8-15 overall, 3-12 conference), which coach Marty McCrone said should not be taken lightly as the IAAM tournament begins next week.
"I think we're the most dangerous team in the league," he said. "The way we're playing, people shouldn't underestimate us."