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Though there were some bright spots for the Northern girls basketball team in this weekend’s fifth annual Waldorf Holiday Hoops Classic, though head coach Brad Kingsburg knew that it would be up against stiff competition.

The Patriots could not overcome any of the tests they faced, falling in three straight games, the final of which was a 61-38 shortcoming to SMAC foe Great Mills on Saturday morning at Westlake High School.

Great Mills finished in seventh place, while Northern took the eighth and final spot.

Northern also lost close encounters to Ballou of Washington D.C. 59-54 on Thursday and in Friday’s action to Suitland of Prince George’s County 55-48.

Westlake won the girls championship over Fairfax (Va.) 43-40, while Clinton Christian of Prince George’s County defeated Maret of Washington D.C. 64-62 for the boys title.

The tournament was a three-day, eight-team format that started on Thursday and was hosted at North Point and Westlake.

“This tournament [was] great for us to play. We have to get better,” Northern head coach Brad Kingsbury said. “We just have to learn from the experience and make some strides.”

Northern (2-5 overall), whivh is on a four-game losing streak, experienced scoring droughts in a specific quarter in each game throughout the tournament.

After a taking a 9-5 lead at the end of the first quarter, Great Mills made some defensive adjustments and exploded for a 23-8 second quarter to take an 11-point halftime lead.

“In the first quarter we played a zone defense, and it wasn’t effective,” Great Mills head coach Mathew Wood said. “In the second quarter we went man-to-man, and the girls were determined to walk away from this tournament with a win. It was a great team effort, and that was the difference.”

The Hornets (3-5) turned up the defense and forced Northern into turnovers, extending their lead to 16 in the middle stages of the third, but Northern cut the deficit to 40-32 entering the final period.

However, Northern again had another scoring drought in the fourth as the Hornets outscored the Patriots 21-6 en route to the victory.

Northern, which starts four sophomores and a junior, had only one player in double figures as sophomore guard Mykaela Bailey collected 10 points. Sophomore Natalie LaPlaca added five points in the contest.

“We were prepared, but I thought we just gave up at the end,” Bailey said. “We should have kept playing hard to give ourselves a chance. We practice hard every day. We just have to keep playing together.”

After dropping the first two games of the tournament to Gwynn Park (74-35) and Old Mill (66-37), the Hornets were hungry for a win.

Great Mills will host Northern in a SMAC contest February 18.

“We knew it was going to be a tough tournament. There were some of the better teams in the state,” Wood said. “We would’ve liked a better showing today yesterday [versus Old Mill], but we were happy with the win today. I’m happy with our play overall, and this tournament will help us for later on in the season.”

Junior forward Jamesha Gray, a transfer from Calvert High, led all scorers with 13 points, while sophomore Zhaley Plater contributed with eight points.

“After the first quarter, we started talking more, and we settled down,” Gray said, who spearheaded a suffocating man to man defense that caused numerous Patriot turnovers. “We play Northern again on our senior night, so this win really will help us when we play again this season.”

On Friday, Northern battled against Suitland, but the inside presence of the Rams’ 6-foot-2 center Charnise Tyler was too much as she dominated the paint with 18 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Rams to the seven-point victory. Senior Jade Young added 13 points in the win.

The Patriots were led by Lisa Seifert and LaPlaca with 14 and 11 points, respectively, while Bailey added eight points.

Northern trailed 16-6 in the first quarter, but went on a 15-6 run in the second to cut the lead to one at halftime. Suitland took a 45-34 lead at the end of three, and Northern made a push in the fourth but came up short.

In Thursday evening’s tournament opener, Northern trailed Ballou 45-44 at the end of the third quarter.

Both teams traded baskets midway through the fourth, and Ballou sophomore guard Ayonna Williams (game-high 17 points) knocked down a three-pointer to put her team up 53-49 with 2:41 remaining.

LaPlaca (15 points) responded with a three of her own to bring Northern within one point.

Later, with 21.4 seconds left, Williams was fouled and connected on two free throws to put Ballou up 55-52.

“We didn’t play well in the first half,” Kingsbury said, who team trailed Ballou 36-27 at halftime. “Second half, we played better. Ballou just played harder. We are very young, and sometimes we seem hesitant out there at times. We have some athleticism. We just have to step up and play basketball.”

LaPlaca scored on a layup with 12.3 seconds left bring the Patriots back to within one.

Williams was again fouled and knocked down two more free throws to put Ballou back up three.

Northern missed a shot attempt on the ensuing possession, and Williams responded with two more free throws to seal the victory.

Sophomore Kassidy Cross had a team-high 16 points for the Patriots, while Bailey added 14.

ajmason@somdnews.com