The defense wasn't clamping down like it usually does and the offense was off, too, leaving the top-ranked Arundel girls basketball team down by eight points to No. 12 South River early in the second quarter of last night's county championship game at Chesapeake.
That's when junior point guard Ana Baker decided to step up by stepping back.
Baker hit three straight three-pointers - all a couple feet left of the top of the key - as the Wildcats settled in and took charge in the second half to come away with a 70-52 win.
It makes the Wildcats (21-2) 17-0 in the county and 6-for-6 in county championship games, giving them seven overall. Last season, they had to share the title with Severna Park because the game was canceled due to snow.
In the second quarter last night, it was only raining - threes from Baker, who had four in all to finish with 17 points. Fellow junior guard Alex McGuire had 29 points and junior center Janae Butler added 12 with 17 rebounds.
"I knew if I didn't start hitting my shots, things couldn't get any better," said Baker. "I wanted to bring my teammates back up and try to take some pressure off them."
Unlike the Wildcats' 80-53 win over South River last Friday, this game stayed close into the second half.
But once again it was the Wildcats' pestering defense forcing 22 South River turnovers and McGuire, Baker and Co. taking over.
With Arundel leading 52-44 going into the fourth quarter, the Seahawks missed seven shots and had five turnovers before getting a free throw from Stacy Hunt with 4:06 to play. By then, the Wildcats led 63-48.
When asked what it would take to play a full 32 minutes against the Wildcats, South River senior center Lindsay Sheppard, who finished with 11 points to reach 1,000 for her career, simply shrugged: "We don't know yet - we haven't played a full game against them yet."
A fourth chance (the Wildcats won the first regular-season meeting, 73-70) could come if the two teams reach the Class 4A East region finals as expected.
McGuire was most pleased with taking the "co" off the county championship tag after having to share it last season.
"We knew if we wanted to win we had to pick it up and we did," she said.
The Seahawks (18-5) also got 11 points from senior center Teresa Sparks and 10 from junior guard Rachel Fry.