SOUTH CHINA — The Lawrence girls basketball team had already shown it had no problem starting third quarters. On Friday, the Bulldogs showed they could finish them as well.

Trailing Erskine at halftime, Lawrence took command in the third quarter and never looked back, eventually earning a 44-38 victory over the Eagles in a Class A North matchup.

“We’ve always talked about the first couple minutes of the second half being about the most important couple minutes of the game, and we usually come out with some pretty good effort,” coach Greg Chesley said. “Last couple of games versus Hampden and Oxford Hills, we’ve had a letdown. We didn’t have a letdown. We kept it going.”

Keagan Alley led Lawrence (3-2) with 11 points, hitting two big 3-pointers in that third quarter, while Sarah Poli and Megan Curtis added nine apiece.

“I singled out Keagan Alley in the locker room and said ‘Keagan, phenomenal job. You willed us to victory tonight,’ ” Chesley said. “She’s one of our captains, and she basically said ‘Girls, we are not losing tonight.’ “

Erskine (2-3) was led by eight points from Lydia Boucher and seven apiece from Sarah Praul and Jordan Linscott, but was undone, coach Mitch Donar said, by a disadvantage in experience and poise in the big moments.

“We certainly weren’t the most veteran team out there,” he said. “I have six freshmen on my roster and only five returning varsity players. … Lawrence certainly showed through when things were on the line, they made big plays and hit some big shots.”

Erskine did rally back from a slow start to take a 19-18 lead at halftime, but the Bulldogs had an answer. After Poli scored down low to put Lawrence ahead 22-21, Alley buried her first 3-pointer with 5:33 to go in the third to put the Bulldogs up 25-21.

Erskine hung tough, getting a basket from Emily Clark (five points, 12 rebounds) with 22 seconds left to cut the gap to 31-27, but Alley knocked down another 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up 34-27 only five seconds before the buzzer.

“I feel like, when we’re having trouble kind of getting momentum and everything, somebody just needs to take control,” Alley said. “When I don’t see it coming from someone else, I just try to step in and do my share.”

After shooting only 1-for-12 from the field in the second quarter, Lawrence was 6-for-14 in the third.

“We’ve been working real hard in practice. The last two games, we kind of took to heart,” Alley said. “We just wanted to get out of this slump.”

Erskine didn’t go away, as Linscott fed Alyssa Savage for a basket and then scored herself on a drive to narrow the gap to 36-31 with 5:57 to play. Curtis, however, hit a 3-pointer, and after Clark had a putback, Brooklynn Lambert hit another three — her first field goal of the game — to put the Bulldogs up 42-33 with 2:14 to play.

Erskine got to within five at 43-38 with 40 seconds left, but couldn’t narrow the gap any further.

“A win is a win,” Chesley said. “I’ve been coaching a long time, and I’m going to smile about any win.”

Erskine stumbled at the start, falling behind 9-2 midway through the first quarter, but the Eagles found a defensive rhythm in the second quarter while allowing no Lawrence points over the final 5:03 of the half and taking their first lead on a Boucher 3-pointer with 39 seconds to go.

“First and foremost, we were holding them to one shot,” Donar said. “Our bigs were really dominating the boards. The other aspect, too, is we were winning the foul battles, so that really turned things a little bit. I think they weren’t as aggressive.”

Lawrence bounced back in the second half, though Donar still had an upbeat takeaway from the night.

“We’re walking away with a lot of positives from the manner in which we played,” he said. “(There are) plenty of areas in which we’ve got to improve upon to get us to that next level.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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