Mount Carmel’s girls basketball team adopted “Weather the storm,” as its theme for the IAAM A Conference tournament, but No. 1 McDonogh’s storm was just too much to handle.
Makaela Quimby hit two of her four 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the first quarter as the defending champion Eagles broke away early and rolled to a 74-37 victory over visiting Mount Carmel in Thursday night’s semifinal.
The victory sends the Eagles (22-2) into another championship showdown with No. 2 St. Frances, which defeated No. 5 St. Vincent Pallotti, 65-34, in the other semifinal. They tip off in a rematch of last year’s title game Monday at 6 p.m. at Harford Community College’s APG Federal Credit Union Arena.
Against Mount Carmel, McDonogh played a stellar all-around game led by 6-4 junior post Kennedy Umeh with 23 points and nine rebounds.
Senior guards Quimby and Paris Locke finished with 18 and 12 points, respectively, while freshman point guard Autumn Fleary chipped in 12. Senior forward Anaiah Jenkins and junior guard Ava McKennie also made key contributions.
That was the heart of the problem for the Cougars (10-16), who had upset No. 4 Mercy in the quarterfinals after falling to the Magic twice during the regular season.
“If you put too much emphasis on one player, somebody else will beat you,” Cougars coach Rob Long said of the Eagles, “so you really have to play straight-up man-to-man against them. You can’t do too many tricks against them, because they have five weapons on the court at all times.”
Quimby sparked the opening squall, scoring 10 of the first 12 points and assisting Umeh for the other two. In the second quarter, Locke hit a 3-pointer and Umeh had a couple of inside buckets as the Eagles built their lead to 24-10.
The Cougars cut it to 24-14 on Anylah Davis’ 3-pointer, but after a McDonogh time out, the Eagles finished the half with eight straight points, five from McKennie.
McDonogh coach Brad Rees said his team’s success starts with their focused practices.
“Our leadership this year has been exceptional where they just come into the gym and get it done, they go to work,” he said. “It’s been really fun to coach. The youngsters have kind of fallen in behind them and they’ve been here before so they know what to expect. I’m just really happy with where they are.”
Umeh had one of her best games of the season despite the challenge from Mount Carmel’s 6-5 Maryland-bound post Hawa Doumbouya, who finished with nine points and 14 rebounds.
“It was definitely a lot of work,” said Umeh, who played last summer for the FIBA U17 World Cup champion USA national team.
“I had to get over a little bit of a learning curve with her this game. It’s always something different. She plays me different every game, so I had to adjust to that, but I think just going up strong and trying to draw the foul was the best way to approach that today.”
The Cougars, who won the B1 Conference championship last season, continued to battle but couldn’t make up any ground in the second half. They were within 15 with 3:19 left in the third quarter before the Eagles took off on a 22-4 run.
Long said he was proud of how his team battled to the end, giving them something to build on in the A Conference.
“I didn’t really reflect on Mercy until just now when I thought, ‘Man, we won our first A Conference playoff game,’” Long said. “When I came in, we were C Conference ... It took us two years to win a B Conference playoff game and the first year in the A Conference, you win one. You’ve got to motivate yourself as you go into the off season and when you come of a loss like this, you’ve got to look at those little things that mean something.”
The top-seeded Eagles now face their third meeting with second-seeded St. Frances. Clearly the top two teams in the conference, neither lost to another A Conference opponent and they split their regular-season meetings. St. Frances won the first game, 56-46, and the Eagles came back to win, 59-48, two weeks later on Jan. 30.
McDonogh earned the top seed on the point-differential tie-breaker — just a four-point difference.
The Eagles are eager to go another round with the Panthers.
“It’s back-to-back. We played them last year and we know how they’re going to come out,” Locke said. “We have a height [advantage], but they’re really fast and they take us out of our game every time we play them, so we have to settle down. We have to stay in our game, don’t let them rush us. It should be an exciting game.”
The Eagles are aiming for their fifth A Conference championship, but they have a lot of ground to make up to match St. Frances. The Panthers are after their 14th title. They won five straight before McDonogh snapped the run last season. The two have combined to win all but five A Conference championships since the IAAM debuted in the 1999-2000 season.
NO. 1 MCDONOGH 74, MOUNT CARMEL 37
Mount Carmel 4 10 15 8 — 37
McDonogh 15 17 26 18 —74
Mount Carmel —Hawa Doumbouya 9, Shayla Garrett 8, Brooklyn Cox 2, Anylah Davis, 8, Victoria Nkongolo 4, Mya Blackshear 6 Totals: 14 8-13 37.
McDonogh — Autumn Fleary 12, Ari Benjamin 1, Ava McKennie 7, Paris Locke 12, Anaiah Jenkins 1, Makaela Quimby 18, Kennedy Umeh 23. Totals: 22 23-30 74