Mount de Sales coach Trish Armstrong welcomed the chance to play tough competition at the 30th annual Holly & Hoops Basketball Tournament to get her team ready for its Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference schedule in January.
The Sailors had a tough test against New Town Tuesday — at least for a half.
The game went back and forth early as both teams did well at the inside-outside game, but the Sailors (7-3) made some second-half adjustments that allowed them to pull away from the previously undefeated Titans for a 68-51 victory at Notre Dame Prep.
"We thought we missed a lot of easy shots early on," Armstrong said. "We have really tremendous 3-point shooters and they were off in the first half. Then we started hitting a little bit and we went to a zone and kind of shut them out with that. Our press, I thought, was pretty effective."
With 1:09 left in the first half, New Town led 27-24 after Ahriyah Richardson's steal and layup, but the Sailors scored six points in the final minute — the beginning of a 13-0 run. When Allie Berlin fed Lizzie Gower for a layup 1:28 into the second half, it gave the Sailors a 37-27 lead — the biggest of the game at that point.
Morgan Anderson's basket cut the lead to eight, but her Titans would not get closer.
They turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes of the half, leading directly to three 3-pointers for Mount de Sales, which hit nine in the game, four by Madison Burris.
"After halftime, we had a good talk in the room," said Sailors sophomore Abby Kuhn, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. "We came back out and we just scored layup after layup. We got some steals and then our press really helped us to get a lot of steals and put the ball away. We finished a lot of layups in the second half."
Although the Sailors ran their lead as high as 12 early in the fourth quarter, the Titans closed the gap after a 6-0 run that included five of Maraiyah Smith's 16 points. Kuhn then hit a 3-pointer and the Sailors set off on a 14-2 run that boosted their lead to 66-45 when Kuhn fed Kristen Zaranski with 2:29 left in the game.
Kuhn, a 5-foot-10 forward, and Gower, a 5-9 junior forward who had eight points and three rebounds, have had expanded roles since 6-1 junior center Sydney Skalstad suffered a knee injury early in the season. Skalstad returned for the first time Tuesday and scored two points and had two rebounds, but Armstrong plans to bring her back slowly.
The Titans (5-1) were ready for a sharp-shooting 3-point team, having beaten Perry Hall with a similar outside game, but the Sailors moved the ball quickly and the Titans couldn't close out their 3-point shooters.
New Town first-year coach Richard Hibbert said the Titans had some holes in their man-to-man defense, allowing the Sailors to exploit them by the back door when the Titans focused on the outside shooters. They also didn't get back in transition and Mount de Sales took advantage of that in the fourth quarter with some easy baskets.
Hibbert said he was glad his team faced such a challenge. Although the Titans return three of their starters and one reserve, they graduated their leaders and they're still adjusting to Hibbert's system.
"Hopefully tomorrow, we'll bounce back," he said. "We play Reservoir at 3 o'clock here, so this should help us out. Hopefully, they will understand going into tomorrow's game that the three points of the game that killed us were transition defense, weak-side boxing out and closing out on 3-point shooters. Hopefully, we'll do much better tomorrow."
The Sailors will also return to NDP today for the final day of the Holly & Hoops mixer. They play No. 8 Patterson Mill (6-0) at 7 p.m. The rest of the Wednesday lineup includes Dunbar vs. Holy Trinity, N.Y., at 11 a.m.; River Hill vs. Perry Hall at 1 p.m. and Notre Dame Prep vs. South Carroll at 5.
MDS — Burris 9, Berlin 10, Gower 8, Williams 8, Skalstad 2, Kuhn 15, Zaranski 16. Totals 24 11-16 68.
NT— Lewis 7, Kosh 7, Petty 4, Richardson 7, Smith 16, Webb 5, Anderson 5. Totals 20 6-14 51. Half: MDS, 30-27.