Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci has been telling his players to play every game as if it were their last.
If that's the case, the sixth-ranked Cardinals also might be hoping that they are judged by their second half, not first, of play.
The host Cardinals went on an 11-0 run to begin the second half and held No. 11 McDonogh scoreless for the first 4:52 of the third quarter in recording a 48-43 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference win yesterday.
Calvert Hall (19-6, 9-2 conference), which gave up only six points in the third quarter, was led by Gary Neal's 15 points. Jaz Cowan led the Eagles (17-9, 5-8) with 13 points.
"They outhustled us in the first half," said Amatucci. "We were lucky to only be down four at the half. We made some mistakes defensively, and they capitalized on them."
The Eagles scored the first seven points of the game and held seven-point leads three times in the first half. A combination of screens and timely offensive rebounding frustrated the Cardinals.
"At first, we were surprised by their rebounding," said Calvert Hall captain Vince Delaney. "We needed to settle down and not give up as many second shots."
The Cardinals came out of the locker room energized after the break, and used a combination of McDonogh turnovers and aggressive defense to turn a 29-25 deficit into a 36-29 lead.
"We knew we were outhustled in the first half, so we had to outhustle them in the second," said Delaney. "Once we did that, we started to put them away."
But the Eagles didn't give up, cutting it to 44-41 with 1:52 left on Justin Drummond's basket.
Calvert Hall, which began the evening going 0-for-7 at the free-throw line, got four straight free throws down the stretch by Neal to ice the victory.
"I thought we played pretty good," said Cowan. "They came out and got on the big run, and we never recovered. It's not like the desire wasn't there."
Although Amatucci wasn't pleased with the free-throw shooting, he said the Cardinals made them when it counted.
"Gary stepped up for us when he had to," Amatucci said. "I think I'll remember the four at the end that we made, and not the 0-7 start."