When Marah Strickland gets hot, Towson Catholic coach Matt Fisher has just one thought: "It's over. Lights out."
Last night, the junior guard scored 19 points in the third quarter and finished with 37 as the No. 2 Owls rallied from 15 points down just after the half to beat No. 4 Seton Keough, 59-46, in an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference girls basketball game.
Strickland hit seven three-pointers, including three in the third quarter. Her 22-foot runner capped a 23-9 third-quarter run that gave the Owls a 38-37 edge at the break. She hit 10 of 12 second-half shots.
"When Marah's hot, there's not much you really can do," said Seton Keough's Haliena Snowden. "The most you can do is play D and get a hand in her face. Most of the time if you get a hand in her face, she still makes the basket."
With the victory, the Owls (18-4, 15-1) completed a weeklong sweep of No. 1 St. Frances, No. 5 McDonogh and Seton Keough and staked their claim to the No. 1 ranking.
Strickland said the Owls were determined not to lose to the Gators again after falling, 45-42, on Dec. 14.
"I knew we were not going to lose this game. I felt it," said Strickland. "The first game, I didn't play very well. It was one of our first games, and we were a new team. We've been playing so well together as a team, and I knew we were going to pull it together."
The Gators (16-4, 12-3) started off strong as 6-foot-3 freshman center Aysa Bussie dominated the inside with 12 of her 19 points in the first half. Early in the second half, the Gators suffered a blow when guard B.J. Williams, their best ballhandler, got sick and left the game.
At halftime, the Owls had switched their defense from a 1-3-1 zone to a man-to-man, shutting off Bussie and creating problems as the Gators struggled to move the ball.
"In the first two quarters, Aysa was beating us on the back side," said Owls guard Candice Walker. "We went man and our coach told us, `She's going to the middle every time,' so we blocked the cutters and kept her at the foul line instead of at the basket."
The Owls put up points quickly -- 14 in three minutes early in the third quarter -- as they scored 44 in the second half.
"I don't think we've ever given up 44 points in a half," said Seton Keough coach Jackie Boswell. "We can't play without B.J. on the floor. B.J., Haliena and Aysa together can kill the momentum."