Bryn Mawr's girls basketball team has made up some big deficits this season, but the No. 11 Mawrtians didn't have quite enough to close the gap against No. 1 Seton Keough last night.
Three times, the Mawrtians rallied from 10 down, but in the final 30 seconds, Kristen McLaughlin and Jackie Valderas hit enough free throws to keep the host Gators on top and secure a 42-39 victory in an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference semifinal.
The Gators (22-4) will meet No. 4 Archbishop Spalding for the crown tomorrow night at 6 at Villa Julie College. Last season, the Gators fell to St. Frances in the final after winning the 2000 championship.
Last night, the Gators won their 19th straight game and their 14th straight over an A Conference rival by keeping cool as the Mawrtians (16-11) pulled within three with 33 seconds left in the game.
"We maintained our composure and we never got out of sync," said Gators coach Jackie Boswell. "That was so important because had Bryn Mawr gotten up on us at all, I don't think we would have been able to make it up. They were so determined. They had nothing to lose."
Going into the final two minutes, the Gators had a 39-29 advantage, but the Mawrtians, who made up 17 points to beat Spalding two weeks ago, quickly began narrowing the gap. Megan Burker hit a free throw and Andrea Dodrill added two more, before the Mawrtians' press went to work.
Their full-court pressure forced consecutive turnovers in the final 49 seconds under their own basket. Laurie Sherry converted both, banking in the first and nailing an off-balance 15-footer.
The Mawrtians fouled McLaughlin with 28 seconds on the clock. She hit the first free throw to push the edge to 40-36.
Just as it has for much of the season, the Gators' defense pulled them through. They pressured the ball and forced a turnover with 12 seconds left. The Mawrtians had to foul Valderas (14 points), who sealed it with two free throws at the nine-second mark. Only Burker's long three-pointer cut the margin of victory to three.
The Mawrtians' defense gave the Gators' three-point shooters fits, holding them to just three. Their three-point ace, Sara Franz, a 5-6 guard who scored 19 in the semifinal win over IND, struggled against 6-foot Danielle Moore and managed just one three-pointer and seven total points.
"We were right there defensively, but offensively, it took us so long to get in our rhythm that it was almost too late to make up the deficit," said Sherry, whose team trailed 10-1 in five minutes.
On the boards, the Mawrtians had a 35-20 edge, led by Dodrill's 10 rebounds.