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If defense wins championships, it was hard to tell which girls basketball team was going to claim the win on Wednesday night on the Rams hardwood as both squads defended with full intentions of winning the rematch.

McDonough hosted the contest against Patuxent, which was looking for its first conference win.

McDonough 26, Patuxent 25

Patuxent 5 3 10 7

McDonough 8 3 2 13

Patuxent: Jackson 11, E. Jones 6, Miller 4, Cooper 3, D. Jones 1

McDonough: A. Johnson 9, Heard 8, Ortiz 4, Crockett 3, D. Johnson 2

Free throws: Patuxent 7-23 (S. Jackson 1-2, E. Jones 2-3); McDonough 4-12 (A. Johnson 2-3, Heard 2-6)

3-point goals: McDonough 3 (A. Johnson 2, Crockett)

The two teams are becoming rivals, as the last matchup had Patuxent trailing by nine in the final minutes until it came back to claim the win.

Wednesday night proved to be a bit different. Although Patuxent played well enough to win. McDonough escaped with the 26-25 victory and improved to 5-6, 2-2 SMAC.

“You always have to work hard, all the way down to the last second,” McDonough head coach Tenay Gaddy said. “These are the girls I’ve had since they were freshman [when I coached on JV], so this is my first graduating class. At halftime, it was all about trying to get them to stop playing lethargic because we’ve had a lot of girls that have been sick.”

After a slow first half, McDonough, which was learning a completely new offense, took an 11-8 lead into halftime.

Patuxent came back to outscore the Rams 10-2 in the third quarter, but the Rams pushed the envelope in the final seconds when senior forward Adasia Ortiz sunk a two-point shot while being fouled.

Ortiz was unable to cash in at the free-throw line, but did tie the game at 24-24 with her bucket.

Patuxent’s Ruth Cooper put up a shot that went all around the rim. Teammate Kristen Miller maintained control of the rebound and was fouled in the act of shooting.

Miller put the Panthers up 25-24 when she completed one of two attempts at the free-throw line.

With 1 minute 23 seconds remaining in regulation, McDonough senior Robin Heard was left open and scored to put her team up 26-25, the eventual winning score.

The Panthers (3-10, 0-4 SMAC) had a chance to inbound the basketball under their basket with just 12 seconds left, but a five-second violation was called, resulting in a turnover.

Later, McDonough’s Aryn Johnson stole the ball and held onto it as time ran out.

The game-high scorer was Patuxent forward Sharde Jackson, who was covered by Heard most of the night, with 11 points.

“She showed what it means to be a captain tonight,” Panthers head coach Stan Hampton said of Jackson. “She kept it going and she kept a smile on her face when things got rough. Even when she got frustrated, she would rally herself up and we knew that that was the person we needed to have in the game.”

Heard, a 6-foot-1 senior, led the Rams in rebounds with 16, while Johnson, a senior guard, was the high scorer for the Rams with nine points.

Johnson said she’s learned to not get down.

“I was trying to help my teammates keep their heads up,” Johnson said, “I just kept telling them to keep fighting, keep pushing. I know where Robin is all the time on the court. We are learning a new offense, but regardless if we’re running a new offense or if we’re not running an offense, Robin and I know where each other is.”

Heard agreed that the chemistry is there with her team and she’s not narrowing it down to one particular game, she’s looking forward to all of them, one at a time.

“My whole thing was I knew they were going to fight all the way to the end,” Heard said, “so we had to fight as a whole team. It can’t be no individual players because they’re coming at us as a whole.”

Patuxent left a few points at the free-throw line, shooting 7 of 23 (30.4 percent) as a team. Hampton said he definitely thought his team had a chance to walk away with the win.

“It’s tough, but it’s the little things that we need to learn to control,” Hampton said, “like turnovers, free-throw shooting. We were horrible from the line, but they played with a ton of heart and a lot of pride. They never gave up. They never backed down, even when things started off slow. It was a defensive battle.”

Hampton was happy with the fact that his team held McDonough to a low scoring game.

“We scrapped right with them the whole time,” Hampton said. “They have great players and great height here at McDonough. We had some players that really did some hard work tonight. We did come back and beat them last time and we knew that that was going to be a factor and that they might want some revenge.”

tshowalter@somdnews.com