NEWARK – For much of the first half of the DIAA girls’ basketball quarterfinal matchup March 4 between Hodgson and St. Thomas More, things weren’t going the fifth-seeded Ravens’ way. Two starters flirted with foul trouble. The normally reliable three-point shooting had abandoned them. And Hodgson’s high-scoring Kayla Braxton-Young was in a rhythm from the outside.
But the players from the little school in Magnolia stayed close to the fourth-seeded Silver Eagles, trailing by just four at halftime. The Ravens held Hodgson to just four free throws in the third quarter, turning that deficit into a four-point lead entering the fourth quarter, and they were able to hang on for a 52-47 win at the Bob Carpenter Center.
The win propelled the Ravens into a semifinal tussle with No. 1 Caravel on Wednesday at approximately 8 p.m. It is the deepest tournament run in school history.
With their three-point shooting largely missing in action – the Ravens made just three of 20 from beyond the arc – they turned to hounding defense and an inside game against the Silver Eagles. They outscored Hodgson in the paint to the tune of 22-10, and they scored 12 points off turnovers to their opponent’s five.
The Ravens’ lead was four heading into the fourth, but Hodgson came out shooting and took its last lead at 42-40 on a jumper by Imani Henry-Butler. But the Ravens responded by scoring the next 10 points. Aniah Patterson nailed a three-pointer, and Olivia Lynch followed with a layup. The next five points came on free throws, and the lead was 50-42 with about 30 seconds remaining.
Patterson’s made three was just her second in 10 attempts, but she never thought about abandoning the long-distance shooting.
“My coaches kept telling me, ‘Just shoot. Just shoot. You shoot too much to just put your head down. Just keep your head up and keep shooting.’ I had to listen to them,” she said.
That eight-point advantage quickly dissipated, however, creating concern among the vocal Ravens supporters who made the drive north. Braxton-Young scored and was fouled on a layup. Although she missed the free throw, the loose ball went out of bounds off a Raven. Hodgson capitalized when Braxton-Young drained a three-point shot with about 18 seconds to go, bringing the Silver Eagles within one possession of a tie.
The inbounds pass went to Dah’Naija Barnes, who appeared to be trapped at midcourt by a trio of Silver Eagles. A twisting Barnes fed the ball to Sophia Stafford, who passed to a wide-open Jessica Simmons for a layup, and, at last, the Ravens and their backers could exhale.
“I just had to get the ball up,” Barnes said of the last sequence. “My coach was calling timeout, but I guess they didn’t hear her. I had to find a way to get the ball through the people and just get the ball forward. I knew there were only a couple seconds left.”
The Ravens will be considerable underdogs to Caravel on Wednesday; the Buccaneers won the regular-season meeting between the two, 65-31. But the Ravens will not be intimidated and see this as an opportunity for the state to get to know St. Thomas More.
“People really doubted us, like ‘St. Thomas More can’t do this. St. Thomas More can’t do that.’ But we just had to come out here and prove it to everybody. We’re going to the semifinals now,” Patterson said.
“People are going to know what St. Thomas More is after this.”
Patterson finished with 17 points to lead St. Thomas More, which improved to 16-4. She was joined in double figures by Barnes with 15 and Simmons with 10. Barnes made 10 of 12 free throws to help her team.
Braxton-Young concluded a fine season with 26 points to lead all scorers. The Silver Eagles finished the year at 19-3.