Raiders have no answer for Cadets’ Daniels
FREDERICK 72, ATHOLTON 60
towson, md. — As Atholton huddled for a timeout, a crowd that had been quiet for most of the fourth quarter let out a roar. Francesca Vanegas found Ryan Jones for a fast-break layup moments earlier, and a doubledigit deficit was suddenly a six-point game.
The Raiders had a glimmer of hope heading into the final stretch of the Maryland 3A final against Frederick, and had the run come earlier, they might have fared differently than a 72-60 loss Saturday night at Towson University’s SECU Arena.
Ultimately, the Raiders (20-6) ran out of answers for Frederick’s Makayla Daniels, who scored 47 points on 22 field goal attempts to lead the Cadets (28-2).
The Raiders were riding a six-game winning streak and a red-hot tournament run after beating Milford Mill, 61-54, in Thursday’s semifinal. On Saturday, their quest for a second state title ended with a comeback attempt that fell a few shots short.
“I’m very proud of our team,” Vanegas said. “We were underestimated this season, and we came out and played our game and proved a lot of people wrong.”
Jones had 25 points, and Vanegas added 20 to lead the Raiders. With about two minutes remaining, Jones converted a layup while getting fouled, making the free throw to get Atholton within four points.
Atholton scored the game’s first six points before Frederick went on an 18-5 run to establish the lead. Daniels took over with a 20-point first half, closing with a step-back three-pointer, then a dizzying crossover and drive into the lane for a layup that gave the Cadets a 39-29 lead at intermission.
“We just knew she was a good overall player and a good attacker. We tried our best to do what we came here to do,” Jones said. “We’re both good teams. It’s a game of runs, and they just had a better run.”
Atholton spent the second half playing catch up. Vanegas, who had nine steals, said it was the defense that brought the Raiders back into the game.
“We kept our hands up a lot, and we were looking more for the steals,” Vanegas said.
But with every Atholton bucket they scored, the Cadets responded. After the Raiders went on a 6-0 run late in the third quarter, Daniels converted a layup while getting fouled and made the free throw to extend the Cadets’ lead to double figures in the fourth.
That was enough to stave off Atholton’s comeback bid. With the game out of reach, Vanegas exited the game in the final minute and took a seat at the end of the bench, putting her hands over her teary eyes.
After the game, the senior duo of Jones and Daniels sat at the podium for a news conference and answered questions for the final time as Atholton teammates.
“It’s sad, but that’s how life goes. One chapter closes, but another one opens,” Jones said.