But Randolph, unsatisfied with its lackluster play over the initial 16 minutes, bounded back and made it a game. The Rams had their best quarter of the season, scoring 19 points. They opened the third period with a 13-point run.
High Point, although briefly jarred by rejuvenated Randolph, prevailed 45-42 in the non-conference game on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
"That was teammates coming together," senior guard/forward Amber Reiley said of the Wildcats' ability to stave off Randolph. "It's one of our strongest attributes. Our defense was strong. We play together well. We have each other's backs."
With the score tied, 40-40, Reiley netted a jumper from the top of the key with 1:40 left. Darby Smith then made a free throw at 40.5 seconds for 43-40.
Emily Fletcher sank two foul shots at 25.4 seconds to leave Randolph trailing by one, 43-42. High Point's Nikki Hull closed out the scoring with free throws at 9.5 seconds. The Rams were able to get in one last shot. Ali MacKay inbounded the ball to Aliyah Huland El, who brought the ball up. Huland El's 3-point attempt was errant.
"We rushed," Rams coach Kristin Torres said. "We had seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, four in a row with the score tied. Passes were forced. We tried to do too much and didn't manage the game well."
Wildcats coach Chris Dexter was left trying to figure out his squad's third-period difficulties.
"I don't know what happened," Dexter said. "Randolph came out of the locker room at halftime with intensity and was executing. It was a great quarter on Randolph's part and our worst of the season."
High Point, which yields only 33 points per game, ran into trouble in the third quarter when the Rams (13-5) became more aggressive. Randolph picked up its rebounding and blocked shots. In addition, the Rams suddenly became hot from the field.
The play of Randolph senior forwards Taylor Lusardi and Ali MacKay picked up.
"Taylor was frustrated in the first half," Torres said. "She was getting boxed out and pushed around. High Point was very aggressive underneath. She stood her ground after halftime.
"All of the girls were more intense. They had to pressure more and move more. We stood around too much in the first half."
Huland El, a sophomore guard, opened the third quarter, scoring two baskets. Huland El assisted on the ensuing basket. Mallory Grey completed the three-point play to cut the Rams' deficit to six, 31-25.
Lusardi was responsible for the next four points, one of them a three-point play. The burst concluded with Huland El's field goal from the top of the key at 3:40. In just 4:20, Randolph was even, 31-31.
The score was deadlocked three times in the third quarter before Lusardi hit a hook-like shot at the buzzer to put the Rams up, 37-35.
"We had a good lead and made silly mistakes," Reiley said. "They got us off track. We regrouped and won."
Dexter said the objective after the break was "to grind it out on defense" and "play more help on Aliyah and the big kids."
Steph Peterson mmade two big plays for High Point (16-3) in the fourth quarter. She nailed a 3-pointer with 2:16 remaining and had the assist on the Reiley's tie-breaking basket 36 seconds later.
"The pass Steph made was a great one," Reiley said. "I was open and she got the ball to me."
Huland El finished with a game-high 17 points. For High Point, Peterson had 14 and Reiley had 13.