Aberdeen's girls basketball team won its first meeting with Digital Harbor at the Basketball Academy in January, but the No. 1 Eagles did not go into Wednesday night's Class 3A North regional semifinal against the No. 7 Rams overconfident.
They went in even better prepared.
The host Eagles tweaked a few things on both ends of the court, and they executed just as well as in the first meeting to take a 67-41 victory. Aberdeen (24-1) will host the regional final Friday night at 6:30 against either Milford Mill or C. Milton Wright.
The Eagles used a combination of zone pressure and man-to-man defense to force 25 Digital Harbor turnovers. On offense, the inside-outside game worked well as the Eagles moved the ball quickly and fed it inside to 6-foot-3 All-Metro center Bri Jones every chance they got.
Jones finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks. Ten of her 14 field goals were assisted.
"We reflected on our past game we played with them and we watched film on that," senior guard Lakeia Hayden said. "And in practice we corrected what we messed up on our defense last time, what defense we should have run on them, how we were going to execute our offense and it worked for us."
The Eagles, Class 3A state finalists last season, didn't score for the first three minutes but needed only 30 seconds to score their first six points, including two converted turnovers. That set off a 24-10 Aberdeen run that concluded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Nia Alleyne and Hayden.
When Jimmia McCluskey fed Jones for a basket midway through the third quarter, the Eagles led by 19.
The Rams, who won the 2009 Class 1A state title, struggled from the free-throw line, especially in the first quarter when they went 3-for-8 to help the Eagles boost their lead. They shot 8-for-21 for the game.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Rams (18-8) made a run as A'Lexus Harrison (16 points) hit two baskets before Jaida Scarborough cut Aberdeen's lead to 50-37. Antwanye Parks, who hit two free throws before Scarborough's basket, then missed two that would have pulled the Rams within 11 with 6:19 to go.
That was close enough for the Eagles, who shut out Digital Harbor for the next five minutes while extending their lead to 61-37 on Alleyne's baseline jumper with 3:07 left.
"When you have two goliaths in terms of [Rams 6-foot-5 center] Infiniti Alston and Bri, you definitely want to establish the inside-outside game," Digital Harbor coach Patrick McDonald said. "I thought we were able to do that, because in the first half we got a lot of stuff going to the basket. We got a lot of fouls early on. We just couldn't make our free throws."
DH—Parks 9, Lewis 4, Scarborough 2, Harrison 16, Alston 4, Alexander 2. Totals 16 8-21 41.
A—Alleyne 11, McCluskey 11, Hayden 8, Fowlkes 2, Palmer 6, Jones 29. Totals 27 10-18 67. Half: A, 34-17.