Sitting on a bench outside of St. Mary’s gym after the girls basketball team’s latest triumph Wednesday evening, Chuck Miller thought back to the program’s “heyday” in the 1990s.
“I don’t think St. Mary’s girls have ever won 19 in a row,” said the current Saints coach, who was an assistant in the 1990s. “Before then they had a half-decent teams in the old Baltimore Catholic League but they were always the second-place or third-place team.”
The No. 9 Saints are currently the top team in the IAAM B Conference, punctuated with a 46-39 victory over Concordia Prep in Annapolis. Bailey Harris finished with 16 points for St. Mary’s, and junior Baily Walden added 12.
After a sluggish first half, the Saints grinded Concordia over the final 16 minutes to win the battle for first in the IAAM B. St. Mary’s (19-0 overall, 10-0 IAAM B) remains one of two undefeated squads (Loch Raven) in the Baltimore area.
The Annapolis school lacked style points Wednesday, but just enough points in the scorebook.
“Defense was the biggest thing because we weren’t scoring so we couldn’t let them score,” said Harris. “I was missing shots and the whole team was not on. But defensively, we were talking and staying in it.”
Harris, a precocious 5-foot-10 wing, compensated for a rough shooting night, with seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Alexandra Vandiver, another freshman, finished with a team-best 11 rebounds along with 10 points.
Miller said his “MVP” Wednesday was junior Maya Morahan (five rebounds). Morahan helped limit Concordia’s guard/forward Hailee Ford, a University of Albany recruit, to six points.
“We fell back a lot on our defense because our offense just wasn’t where we wanted it to be,” said Walden. “We came together as a team and said, ‘let’s get this done.’”
Leading 18-13 at halftime, St. Mary’s found some offense to create distance early in the second half as Walden and Harris teamed up in a 12-3 run. Walden dropped a 3-pointer, giving the Saints a 22-16 advantage.
Harris, who’s already on Maryland’s recruiting radar, got her own miss and scored. Seconds later, she intercepted a Concordia pass and drove to the basket for a score, extending the lead to 29-16 with three minutes left in the third.
Harris, who cobbled 13 points over the final three quarters, put St. Mary’s up, 38-24, midway through the fourth quarter with a jumper.
Miller said he was concerned about the Concordia matchup after watching it dismantled South River at the Public vs. Private Challenge Saturday at McDonogh.
Wednesday, the Saints held Concordia (17-3, 9-1 IAAM B) to its lowest scoring game of the season. Senior Cori Barnes finished with 16 points for Concordia.
“We battled ourselves more than anything. We couldn’t get shots to drop,” said Concordia coach John Cooney, whose team had 19 points through three quarters Wednesday. “They played great defense, they shut Hailey down. They did what they were supposed to do.”
The win gives St. Mary’s the inside track for the No. 1 seed for the upcoming IAAM B playoffs. The Saints have three of their last four league games on the road.
St. Mary’s last won the IAAM B crown in 2013.
“It’s surreal, but we don’t pay attention to it,” said Harris about the Saints’ undefeated run. “We know the target on our back is getting bigger and teams are going to play their best game against us.”
We didn’t play our best game, but we stayed together and fought. When our players who’re supposed to make shots aren’t making shots, we have our other teammates ready to pick us up. Our chemistry is really good right now.”
NO. 9 ST. MARY’S 46, CONCORDIA PREP 39
Concordia 10 3 6 20 - 39
St. Mary’s 11 7 11 17 - 46
Concordia - Barnes 16, Callahan 8, Penn 7, Ford 6, Smelcer 2. Totals 12 9-17 39.
St. Mary’s - Harris 16, Walden 12, Vandiver 10, Morahan 4, Ervin 2, Oxendine 2. Totals 17 10-19 46.