Fourth-ranked Lawrence of Fairfield clamped down defensively on No. 5 Erskine Academy of South China during the second half Friday night and went on to a 48-41 victory in their Class A North girls basketball quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center on Friday evening.
“Hard work and grit has been Lawrence basketball, and I just told the girls that’s one that we won the old-school Lawrence way,” Bulldogs’ coach Greg Chesley said.
Lawrence (12-7) will advance to next Wednesday’s 3:30 p.m. semifinal against the winner of Friday’s late game between No. 1 Hampden Academy (17-1) and No. 8 Nokomis of Newport (7-11).
Erskine ends its season with at 12-7.
Erskine held a 24-20 lead when Alyssa Savage followed in her own miss with 1:03 left in the first half.
By the time the Eagles made their next field goal, it was Lawrence with the four-point lead at 31-27 with just 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
Lawrence continued its surge with six unanswered points — Savannah Weston had a drive and an assist on a Sarah Poli basket during the mini-spurt — and built its lead to as much as 39-28 on a free throw by Weston with four minutes left in the game.
Another key to that success by the Bulldogs was their ability to limit Erskine’s second chances after the Eagles were able to generate more shots off the offensive boards earlier in the game.
“We didn’t rebound well in the first half, and it wasn’t great in the second half, but it was better,” Chesley said. “We had kids flying after the ball, and I think some of those rebounds in the second half were the key.
Erskine tried to sneak back in with its own defense, as two steals led to baskets by Emily Clark and Savage that rallied the Eagles within 39-32 with three minutes remaining.
But Lawrence’s Megan Curtis came out of a timeout with back-to-back drives to push the lead back to double digits, and while two 3-pointers by Grace Hutchins helped Erskine get as close as 45-40 in the final minute, free throws by Hope Bouchard and Poli helped the Bulldogs hold on for the win.
“They hit a couple of nice shots to make me nervous,” Chesley said, “but the girls worked really hard.”
Curtis led Lawrence with 13 points while Poli scored 11 points with eight rebounds and Weston finished with 10 points.
Emily Clark and Savage scored nine points apiece to lead Erskine Academy.
Lawrence and Erskine split two regular-season meetings, and little was different during the opening half as the teams exchanged modest runs en route to a 24-24 stalemate at intermission.
Erskine got off to the quicker start, scoring eight straight points after spotting Lawrence an elbow jumper by Poli to open the game.
The Eagles maintained an 11-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Lawrence used six unanswered points to forge a 16-16 tie on a post-up move by Weston midway through the period.
Nine of Erskine’s final 12 points in the half came on 3-pointers by Savage, Sarah Praul and MacKenzie Roderick, but Lawrence kept pace at the free-throw line where Delenyi Carr went 4-of-4 from the line while the Bulldogs as a team made 6 of 7 during the final two minutes of the half.