With the defenses tightening, No. 9 Roland Park and No. 5 Institute of Notre Dame had the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship game in sight.
IND sophomore guard Chandrea Jones worked her way through the lane and - after all the attention came her way - sent a pass back out to senior Colby Lee, who hit a wide-open look with 22 seconds left yesterday to give the host team the final points of a 44-40 win over the Reds in the A Conference semifinals.
The Indians (21-6) will take on top-ranked St. Frances - a winner over defending league champion Archbishop Spalding in the other semifinal - in the conference final at 1 p.m. today at Villa Julie College.
In a game that was close all the way, the Indians took a 42-40 lead when Jones (game-high 22 points) hit a short turnaround jumper with 2:46 left. It stayed that way with the help of six straight missed free throws from three Reds players.
"We gutted it out," said IND coach Herb Hoelter. "Our senior leadership stepped up - Colby hit a nice shot to seal it. We knew they would double on Jones, so we ran a play for her to take it in and dish it out to Colby."
The Reds, who held their own against a bigger and more athletic team, had to look no further than the free-throw line. In their regular-season win against IND (the teams split two games), they went 16-for-16 at the free-throw line and 12-for-12 in the fourth quarter. Yesterday, they were 11-for-23.
"We did everything we had to do, but didn't get it done down the stretch. To miss six free throws is unbelievable," coach Scott Buckley said.
St. Frances 58, Archbishop Spalding 45: Less than a half mile away at St. Frances, Shadae Swan countered the Cavaliers' box-and-one defense by pouring in 20 points, including four three-pointers, to lead the Panthers (25-2).
The 5-foot-9 junior guard scored all but one of the Panthers' 15 third-quarter points, including three 20-footers, as they ran up a 15-point lead. The 2001 A Conference champs also got 11 points, 14 rebounds and six steals from 6-0 All-Metro center Angel McCoughtry.
The Cavaliers (14-11) tried to clamp down on the Panthers' inside game and out-rebounded St. Frances 32-30, but 33 turnovers and early foul trouble for 5-10 senior forward Lizzie Bayly didn't help Spalding, which got 21 points from point guard Stacy Hunt.
The Panthers, who shot 7-for-12 from three-point range, used outside shooting to make their move in the second quarter when Swan started her show.
A couple of Meghan Latonick free throws pulled the Cavaliers within 19-17 with five minutes left in the first half, but they couldn't convert a St. Frances turnover to tie. The Panthers answered with a 12-point run capped by three-pointers from Swan and Nija Bastfield.