Third-ranked Spalding had just rattled off eight unanswered points, punctuated by senior guard Torri Chestnut’s end-to-end layup and putback, to pull to within six of Dr. Phillips (Fla.) with 5 minutes 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the National High School Invitational championship Saturday afternoon at Georgetown Prep.

Then, with one flick of the wrist and slap of a hand on a made three-pointer, the lead was back to 10. Then 13 on a conventional three-point play. Then 15 on two made free throws.

Within 41 seconds, what appeared to be a possible comeback withered into Spalding losing to the Florida 8A champions, 62-45, for the second time in three years in the NHSI event, televised on ESPN2.

“Kill a mosquito with an ax,” Dr. Phillips Coach Anthony Jones told his team during a timeout after the Panthers’ 13-point fourth-quarter lead was down to six. “Hey, we’re still going to take the shots that we take.”

Spalding (30-3) did likewise, but struggled against the Panthers’ shape-shifting zone defense. The Cavaliers missed 54 of 73 attempts. And their inaccuracy rendered almost meaningless their 28-8 dominance on the offensive glass and their six-turnover edge.

“Oh, my gosh, that was like the Syracuse zone,” said Spalding Coach Bookie Rosemond, whose team could not set up its press defense because of all the misses. “Man, they played it tough. We just tried everything and couldn’t succeed and knock down the shots.”

The Cavaliers had 28 more field-goal attempts than Dr. Phillips.

And Spalding senior forward Camille Calhoun played just 12 minutes, four in the first half, because of foul trouble.

The Cavaliers missed the Virginia Commonwealth signee, who helped the team win 101 games in four years.

“Losing her was huge,” Rosemond said. “She’s been the backbone of our program, with Torri, leading for four years now. We rely on her being so active on both ends of the floor. If we get her on the court more, her presence on both ends is going to help us.”

“It hurt,” Calhoun said of watching more than playing, “because obviously this was my last game. I really did want the win.”

The post-comeback unraveling began with 4:57 left when Dr. Phillips junior Matea Britvar was fouled on a made three-pointer and sank the free throw. Then Georgia signee Sydnei McCaskill scored on a three-point play, and George Washington recruit Hannah Schaible hit two foul shots.

It was a game-altering 41 seconds. Spalding senior forward Jade Scaife, who made the all-tournament team after her 15-point, 10-rebound effort Saturday, scored two inside baskets to make it an 11-point game, but the Panthers went on another 8-0 run.

“This is very disappointing because of the fact that we lost to them again, and I don’t like losing to the same team twice,” said Chestnut, whose two made field goals in 14 attempts were the two to cap the short-lived comeback. “But then I look back on the whole season . . . we’ve accomplished so much. So we can’t really hang our heads on this one game.”

Dr. Phillips (31-3) got 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists from Schaible. Britvar made all three of her three-point attempts in scoring 16 points and McCaskill added 15.

Schaible enjoyed playing again in the area where she will attend college. She had some GW supporters at the game.

“When we were flying up here, I was thinking the next time I’m flying up here, I’m going to stay here,” she said.

Spalding’s three losses this season were a last-second regular season IAAM defeat against McDonogh, a 54-44 outcome against No. 1 St. John’s in the Bishop Walsh Invitational final and then to Dr. Phillips, the first three-peat Florida 8A champion.

“If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we’d be 30-3 and one of the last two teams in the country playing,” Rosemond said, “I’d say I’d take that right now.

“I’m so proud of these girls and where they have put this program. I’ve told the young ones they’ve got big shoes to fill.”