UPPER MARLBORO - The rebounding was better, along with the defense, and the slower pace this time also helped.
But the Arundel girls basketball team, getting a second look this season at the Washington area's top-ranked team, Riverdale Baptist, couldn't find the answers in the second half to pull out a win.
The host Crusaders, ranked No. 1 by The Washington Post and ninth in the country by USA Today, were a little too much to handle inside and got a couple of key assists and baskets from senior guard Pamela Stanfield to come away with a 49-41 win over the Wildcats, No. 1 in The Sun's Baltimore-area poll.
The Wildcats fell to 11-3 for the season but left Riverdale Baptist (22-1) knowing they'd given the Crusaders a much better go of things the second time around. At the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Holiday Tournament less than a month ago, Riverdale Baptist won, 74-50.
"We changed our philosophy as far as running our offense, slowing it down to make them play both ends of the court. Our shots didn't fall, but we did what we wanted. I was pleased with the effort," said Arundel coach Lee Rogers.
Ahead by 33-30 with 1:07 to play in the third quarter, the Crusaders got a long three-pointer from Stanfield that pushed the lead to six. They went on a 6-2 run into the fourth quarter to take a double-digit lead for the first time.
The Wildcats, who got 12 points from senior Alex McGuire and 10 points from Danae Brownlee, could only cut the lead in half the rest of the way.
"This time, it felt like all five of us were out there playing together. It was just a better overall effort," said senior point guard Ana Baker, who scored six points and added five rebounds for Arundel.
The Wildcats got eight points and, more importantly, 11 rebounds from senior forward LaTavia Vails to offset the strong inside presence of Lindsay Harris, Demauria Liles and Xenia Stewart, who combined to score 37 points for the Crusaders.
"This time, we rebounded a lot better and didn't give up as many fast-break points. Everything was a little better, but we still couldn't pull one out," said McGuire. "They're just a good team, and you have to give them credit."