Four minutes 53 seconds wereleft to play yesterday when time was called and the St. Mary's players slowly returned to the bench, baffled.
Visiting Seton Keough had taken away the Saints' inside game early, and their perimeter game wasn't providing any answers, either. Just before the timeout, senior guard Emily Lipton smoothly drove the lane, only to have her shot swatted away by Seton Keough's Itxaso Mallaviabarrena.
The Seton Keough defense simply left the No. 2-ranked Saints with no alternatives in Annapolis, and the result was a stifling 47-33 win for the No. 3 Gators, who showed a distinct liking to their new spot atop the rigorous Catholic League.
The Gators improved to 19-4 overall and 11-1 in the Catholic League. St. Mary's, which went a perfect 14-0 in league play last season and was off to a 9-0 start this time around, dropped its second straight this week.
On Tuesday, the Saints (17-4, 9-2) fell out of first place during the regular season for the first time in two seasons with a 58-57 loss to No. 13 John Carroll.
Yesterday, the Gators, behind a 19-point performance from Denise King, seemed to sense a little vulnerability in the Saints and ran with it, avenging a 45-42 loss at Seton Keough in December.
"Last time, they came out and played harder than us. So this time, we wanted to make sure we came out and play harder than them," said Seton Keough coach Jim Stromberg.
That was certainly the case as the Gators scored the game's first 13 points and then found responses every time St. Mary's pulled close later in the game.
Three times the Saints pulled within one -- twice in the second quarter and once in the third. But they were never able to take a lead.
A big reason was King, who hit the first of her three three-point baskets with 2: 48 left in the third quarter to give the Gators a 24-20 lead and later helped seal the win with two more.
"When you hit a `three,' it always feels good. It gets you in the game and gets the rest of the team pumped up," said King. "We definitely wanted it after we lost to them the first time. We wanted to prove we can beat them."
Another decisive factor was on the boards, where Sarah Walsh (16 rebounds) and the Gators gave up only one offensive rebound in the first half and not many more in the second.
Help down low on St. Mary's 6-foot-2 center Felicia Holloway, who was limited to just five points, had the Saints scrambling for other options.
When it was over, the Saints had hit on just 11 of their 51 shots from the field with 11 turnovers.
"Too much one-on-one. Too much standing around. Too many turnovers," said St. Mary's coach Harry Dobson. "Things are catching up with us, unfortunately. We have to wake up in a hurry, because there's too much talent on this team. Seton Keough just wanted the game more."
Mallaviabarrena, a senior from Spain, scored 13 points for the Gators.
Lipton led the Saints with 13 points, and senior guard Maria Smear scored nine before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Pub Date: 2/06/99