No. 16 North Point, the defending state champion, was averaging more than 66 points entering Thursday’s Maryland 4A East region semifinal, but with leading scorer Brianna Hodges and point guard Kandeon Niravanh sitting with early foul trouble, the Eagles’ offensive options were limited.
The breakthrough came early in the fourth quarter, when the Eagles turned their sound defense into transition offense and sealed a 45-31 win in Waldorf. Top-seeded North Point will move on to Saturday’s Maryland 4A East region final to play Old Mill, a 55-51 winner against Arundel on Thursday.
“We just didn’t play our game,” Eagles Coach Michael Serpone said. “[South River has] games where they score in the 20s and 30s; we don’t do that. Fortunately, we were doing a good job on defense that kept us in the lead.”
Behind their aggressive zone defense, the Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead, holding the Seahawks without a point for the game’s first 9 minutes, 16 seconds.
The Eagles (22-2) endured their own drought through the second and third quarters, but maintained their cushion behind 10-for-14 shooting from the foul line in that span. Once South River’s offense came alive behind strong offensive rebounding, however, North Point’s lead was trimmed to 18-16 midway through the third period. Kobe Chaney (nine points) helped spur the Seahawks (20-5) with her high-energy play in the paint.
“We came in a little overconfident and not as focused as we needed to be,” said Hodges, who finished with a team-high 13 points. “As a senior, I had to realize that one mess-up can lose the game and end our season, so we started picking it up on defense and playing team ball.”
To counter South River’s concerted effort on the boards, Serpone sent in sophomore Ciara Bryson, who scored two putbacks and sparked a 7-2 run to close the third period. The rest of the Eagles followed suit, as Valencia Vastey drained a three-pointer to ignite a 20-point fourth quarter in which six North Point players scored.
“We realize there’s a lot to learn from this game and I think we’ll be refocused for Saturday,” said Vastey, who scored eight points. “Thankfully, we’re still playing and there’s another challenge ahead of us.”