City's girls basketball team has been determined to improve on last season one step at a time. Yesterday, the Knights took their second giant step in four days.
The Knights used a quick 1-2-2 zone, some pressure and accurate free-throw shooting at the end to upset No. 14 Southside, 57-54. On Tuesday, the Knights (10-2) edged four-time defending state champion Dunbar, 34-33.
"We struggled last year playing all these teams," said guard Amanda Burroughs, who led a balanced offense with 13 points. "We want to go to the [city] championship, and this year, I think we can do it."
Both of this week's wins came in non-league Baltimore City action, but they have raised the Knights' profile and certainly made them a threat in the city's Division I, with the winner facing the Division II winner for the title. Defending city champion Western, Dunbar and Southside are in Division II.
Yesterday, the visiting Knights fell behind as Southside's Patrice Griffin hit two of her four three-pointers in the first 4:40. ShaRee Ledbetter's driving layup early in the second quarter pushed the Jaguars' lead to 18-13. Then the Knights tightened their defense.
"We've been playing good defense all year," said City coach George Petrides. "What we wanted to do was not give them an easy three-pointer on the outside and help out on their penetration."
Although Griffin nailed a couple more three-pointers late in the game, the Jaguars got almost nothing on the inside.
City's press also provided a boost, especially early in the fourth quarter, when the Knights converted three straight turnovers to run up a 45-35 lead.
Southside recovered with an 11-1 run to tie at 46 with 5:20 left, but the Knights hit a couple of free throws and toughened on defense to take the lead for good.
Down the stretch, the Knights hit seven of nine free throws to maintain their edge. Burroughs hit both ends of a one-and-one with 24 seconds left for a 57-51 lead. Griffin's final three-pointer finished off the scoring.
Madea Bailey added 11 points for City and Danyelle Brown had 10.
For the Jaguars, who had lost by just two points to No. 1 St. Frances in a holiday tournament, the loss was the first against a city team this season.
While Ledbetter scored 21 and Griffin added 17, coach Dafne Lee-Blakney said the Jaguars (5-4) did not play defense well enough to win.
"I've seen this team play much better defense than that," said Lee-Blakney. "As I've told them all year, you can put as many offensive plays in as you want, but if you don't play defense, trading baskets is not going to win a basketball game."