After losing to Eleanor Roosevelt by two points in last year's state Class 4A girls basketball championship, No. 5 Arundel had all the motivation it needed to sprint out to a quick start in its bid for revenge in yesterday's state semifinal.
But, as Roosevelt senior Elashier Hall said, her team was prepared for a marathon.
As the fouls on Arundel's frontcourt players began to mount, the Raiders gained the momentum to close a 16-point gap and hold off the Wildcats for a 47-43 victory at UMBC's RAC Arena.
The Raiders (24-1), ranked No. 2 by The Washington Post, will try to tie the state tournament record for most consecutive titles when they go after their fifth at 3 p.m. tomorrow against Blake - a 61-43 winner over Linganore in the other semifinal - at RAC Arena.
The Wildcats (22-5) dominated early, running up a 16-point lead by the middle of the second quarter as the Raiders scored only one basket in the first 12:28. A few minutes later, Simone Egwu, Arundel's 6-foot-3 center, and 6-5 forward Sheronne Vails picked up their third fouls, and that fueled a growing Raiders intensity.
"They are phenomenal players," Raiders 6-0 forward Olivia Applewhite said. "It's a blessing to have two 6-5 girls on the same team, and ... we aren't that big, so we just tried to figure out a way to get them out of the game. It was just take it at them or just play smart defensively, and that's what we did."
Egwu and Vails combined for 10 points and 17 rebounds, and Vails fouled out with 3:57 left in the game.
In the third quarter, the Raiders tied the score for the first time, at 25, on Keiona Revis' three-pointer with 3:15 left. The next second, Vails picked up her fourth foul - a minute after Egwu got hers.
Early in the fourth, the Raiders ran their lead to 35-27, but the Wildcats went on an 11-2 run, taking a 38-37 lead on Talen Watson's pull-up jumper with 4:32 to go. The Raiders answered with an 8-2 run, helped by five Arundel turnovers.
"Maybe [Arundel had] a little lack of intensity," said Watson, who led the Wildcats with 16 points. "Getting more loose balls and more rebounds would have helped, because the more possessions you get, the more chances you have to score. They're a good team, but we're a good team, too. We had everything to win this game ... and we tried the best that we could."