Joppatowne's Zameria Jones, right, drives to the basket… (Steve Ruark / Photo for The…)
Joppatowne had problems holding leads Thursday night at Aberdeen.
The Mariners lost a 16-point first-quarter edge by halftime. They wasted a six-point advantage with just over two minutes remaining. But Joppatowne kept bouncing right back.
After No. 5 Aberdeen went up by two with 23 seconds left, Shakara Head and TroiQuay Malloy made clutch baskets that gave No. 3 Joppatowne the game's final five points and a 72-69 victory in an Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference matchup of unbeaten teams.
Joppatowne coach Michael Harris said the key to the victory was how his team maintained its poise despite the way the game's momentum swung wildly back and forth. The Mariners, last year's Class 1A state champions, now have won 28 straight games and handled plenty of high-pressure situations.
"This team hasn't lost a game in over a year," Harris said. "Champions, they don't believe they're supposed to lose."
Joppatowne (10-0, 3-0) raced to a 20-4 lead in the first quarter and appeared ready to turn this game into a rout. But the Mariners found some early foul trouble at the point guard position and then couldn't handle Aberdeen's full-court press, turning the ball over 23 times in the first half as the Eagles pulled into a halftime tie at 31.
The third quarter brought 11 lead changes, and there was more of the same in the first part of the final period. But Pez Scott (13 points) and Zameria Jones (27 points) made key shots and free throws that helped the Mariners take a 67-61 lead with 2:11 left.
Aberdeen (9-1, 1-1) rallied one final time as Ayana Stewart (13 points) and Bri Jones (26 points, 18 rebounds, six blocks) each scored four points in a late 8-0 run. Jones finished that on a putback with 23 seconds left that gave Aberdeen a 69-67 lead.
But Head (20 points) tied the game on her follow-up with 11 seconds left. Malloy then made the game's crucial play on a steal that she turned into a layup and a three-point play with 3.7 seconds left.
"We just had to keep our poise and just make a better run than they made," Jones said. "We just had to … make it to the end."
A big reason the Mariners accomplished that was because of how they settled down on offense in the second half. Joppatowne constantly attacked on offense in the first half, driving on almost every possession.
But Harris said he told the players at halftime to be a little more patient in the second half and look for good shots. That strategy paid off — the Mariners had only eight second-half turnovers and were able to rebound every time Aberdeen appeared ready to take command or made some kind of run.
Despite the loss, Aberdeen coach Stacy Liles liked how her team kept battling back against their rival.
"They played a great game," Lilies said. "That was intense. I couldn't ask them to play any harder. I'm proud of them."