For 3 1/2 quarters yesterday, No. 12 Catonsville outplayed No. 5 Lake Clifton, but the last half of the final quarter made the difference.
Tied at 70 with 4 minutes, 39 seconds left, the Lakers outscored the Comets, 16-4, en route to a 86-74 win in the Red Division final of the Baltimore County Holiday Invitational at Perry Hall.
"Catonsville surprised us," said Lake Clifton coach Charlie Moore. "They have a really good ball team. They came out aggressive and weren't intimidated."
After Lake Clifton (6-0) raced to a 29-19 lead early in the second quarter, Catonsville scored 13 straight points in the next 3:36 to take a 32-29 lead, and extended it to 44-37 by halftime.
Catonsville (6-1) gained its last lead, 66-65, 1:15 into the fourth quarter.
"I was very pleased with our effort tonight," said Catonsville coach Art Gamzon. "I think we gained some degree of respect. We tried to tell Lake Clifton, 'Hey, we can play.' "
But the Lakers' Shawnta Rogers had the same message for Catonsville.
Rogers, named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, hit five three-pointers and scored 31 points to lead all scorers.
But Rogers said defense was the key to the win.
"We started off slow and we had to convert from our defense," he said. "They had us kind of surprised. I didn't think we would ever take the lead."
After trailing most of the way, the Lakers took the lead for good with 4:49 left on a Kevin Norris three-pointer, one of 12 for the Lakers.
From there, Lake Clifton used a 2-1-2 full-court press to force key Catonsville turnovers down the stretch, and the Lakers pulled away.
"Our pressure defense was the key to the game," said Moore. "Catonsville was very good, but we had that little something extra."