Give Gerstell Academy credit for giving as good as it got in the first half of an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference semifinal Thursday evening in Stevenson.
The No. 14 Falcons went toe-to-toe with a more experienced and very athletic St. Timothy’s squad over the first 16 minutes of the contest until the roof fell on them in the third quarter.
That’s when St. Tim’s lowered the boom, snapping a 22-22 deadlock at the break and rolling to a thorough 61-39 triumph to earn a rematch with St. Mary’s in the championship game at Harford Community College’s APG Federal Credit Union Arena on Monday in Bel Air. The top-seeded Saints beat fifth-seeded Concordia Prep, 67-53, to remain unbeaten at 26-0, including a 62-52 verdict over St. Tim’s (18-3, 15-1 league) on Jan. 17.
Junior guard Kira Upton got the party started for St. Tim’s by nailing a three-pointer early in the third quarter, although Gerstell took a 29-25 lead on a drive by Dahmira Delone and two tough inside moves by fellow junior Eniyah Stinette, who led the Falcons with 13 points.
St. Tim’s responded with consecutive buckets by precocious freshman guard Karmen McDuffie to knot the score at 29-all.
Upton, who missed her first six takes of the game, buried another triple to give the hosts the lead for good in what turned out to be a 23-3 run to close the third period with a 48-32 advantage.
When Upton hit her third three of the quarter to balloon the lead to 40-30, St. Tim’s was running downhill — and fast.
To be sure, senior guard Aryss Macktoon (game-high 21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals) was also in the middle of the action, as was McDuffie (11 points, 9 rebounds), sophomore guard Kyla Stack (7 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals) and junior forward Marah Glenn (6 points, 2 assists).
The Falcons (18-5, 13-3) did manage to pull within 52-39 on a Stinette stick-back, which was their last gasp.
”Our scout was to force them to beat us from the outside,” Gerstell coach Shane Stem said. “And for about 16 to 20 minutes it worked. But when Upton got hot, we were like ‘Oh, no,’ — three points turned to five, to 10. Then we had to go man-to-man and we were scrambling. We struggled and got in our own way a little bit, and we started over-thinking.”
Upton said she knew that she had to keep shooting, despite an early 0-fer.
”I know how well I can shoot,” she said. “So really not letting the misses get the best of me. Just seeing the ball go in helps.”
Macktoon said that Upton’s shooting “brought the energy up” for her team.
”When we came out in the second half, it was kind of slow,” the La Salle commit said. “When we were able to find her open and she was able to get hot, we were basically able to run the score up. Once she started making shots, everyone else started to pick up.”
St. Tim’s coach Vernon Harris said that the early shots Upton missed were within the structure of the offense.
”I said to her, ‘take a deep breath and imagine that ball going in,’” he said. “She took some good shots — and they started falling at the right time, and that helped us out a lot.”
Macktoon was still the star of the show.
”She’s the MVP,” Harris said. “I’ve been telling people around town that she is one of the athletic girls in the area. She proves it time after time against everybody.”
NO. 9 ST. TIMOTHY’S 61, NO. 14 GERSTELL ACADEMY 39
Gerstell Academy 17 5 10 7 — 39
St. Timothy’s 14 8 26 13 — 61
Gerstell Academy - Eniyah Stinette 13, Anahita Jackson 7, Kiara Hardy 7, Dahmira Delone 6, Kendall Williams 5, Kate Roberts 1. Totals: 17 3-6 39.
St. Timothy’s - Aryss Macktoon 21, Karmen McDuffie 11, Kira Upton 9, Kyla Stack 7, Marah Glenn 6, Maria Hardy 4, Khaya Carter 3. Totals: 23 12-19 61.