Roland Park rises to title game, outlasting Mercy for 46-42 win

Defense, late bank shot seal victory

Reds hold foe nearly scoreless in 3rd

IAAM basketball

February 18, 2000|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Roland Park girls basketball team began this season searching for ways to fill the void left by the graduation of several key offensive threats, including a two-time All-Metro guard.

The Reds will end it in a place that might have seemed highly unlikely just two months ago -- the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland championship game.

Two days after pulling a stunning upset of top-ranked St. Frances, 15th-ranked Roland Park held host No. 12 Mercy without a basket for all but the final second of the third quarter and survived a late Magic run to pull out a 46-42 semifinal win yesterday.

"We've had a lot of people doubt us, and I just think we had a lot to show," said guard Kelsey Twist, who led the Reds with 12 points.

The Reds (18-10) advanced to tomorrow's 7 p.m. tournament final at Loyola College, where they will face Seton Keough, a 45-41 winner over John Carroll in yesterday's other semifinal.

For a team that has relied heavily on man-to-man defense to shut down opponents all season, yesterday was no different for Roland Park.

Trailing by five at halftime, the Reds dominated play throughout the third quarter, holding the Magic (17-9) without a field goal in their first 10 attempts, forcing six turnovers, and scoring 12 unanswered points to build a 37-28 lead.

Only a 40-foot prayer at the buzzer by Colette Hailey kept Mercy from being shut out for the quarter.

"We really could not get any kind of offensive flow or consistency," said Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion. "I could tell by just sitting and watching, our kids weren't quite sure what to do [offensively]. We've been handling [man-to-man defenses] the last couple of games, so it could just be that their kids played it harder than what we've seen."

Having led by as many as seven points early in the game, Roland Park took a 29-28 lead on Caline McHenry's long jumper with 3: 01 left in the third quarter, then, early in the fourth, extended it to 10 on consecutive baskets by Jen Bengel.

Mercy, however, roared back, as forward B. J. Banjo (15 points) nailed a three-pointer, then stole an inbounds pass and fed Kaitie Schuyler for an easy layup. Moments later, the Magic's Kelli McKee drove in for a layup, tying the score at 42 with 1: 01 left.

Down the stretch, however, the Reds won with defense, forcing two turnovers in the final 45 seconds, plus a 17-foot bank shot from McHenry with 19 seconds left, and a couple free throws.

"We've had some really tough games that we've lost by close margins," said Twist, who said that beating St. Frances was a big boost for the team. "I think that victory gave us a little bit of confidence, and, hopefully, it will carry through all the way."

The task won't get any easier for Roland Park, which has lost to Seton Keough twice this season, including by just two points in their most recent meeting.

But for a team that already has surprised so many, the Gators are just one more bump on the road.

"Honestly, I thought the St. Frances side of the draw was really tough, but I knew that we could play with anybody," said Buckley. "I don't think a lot of people thought we were as good as we are."

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