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FCC reaches tourney finals

March 24, 2001

FCC reaches tourney finals



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Frederick Community College coach Jack Mehl isn't one to say "I told you so," but....

As much as he might have wanted to, Mehl let his Cougars do all the talking for their coach on Friday in the semifinals of the NJCAA Women's Division II National Basketball Tournament at the Hagerstown Junior College athletic complex.

It was nonverbal communication with hustle, poise and team rebounding that allowed Frederick to overcome near collapse to snatch a 72-69 victory over Mitchell (Conn.) College to move into tonight's national championship game.

"It's unbelievable. ... it's pretty cool," Mehl said about the position Frederick finds itself in. "From Day One, I thought we'd be one of the best team's around with what we had coming back and the players we brought in. All year, we've tried to get a contribution from 10 players a game and today we had all 10 contribute.''

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Frederick (30-6) got the usual help from point guard Dani Thomas, who scored 24 points and ran the show offensively. It was the rest of the cast that made Mehl look like a soothsayer.

Like Mindy Luckett, who hit two key jumpers in the last two minutes to save Frederick from squandering away a 14-point lead in the second half. And maybe Toni Branson, who not only came up with 13 points and 10 rebounds but tipped away Mitchell's last surge downcourt in quest of the tying 3-point shot in the final 10 seconds to seal the game.

"Mindy made some big shots for us," Mehl said. "She hit some shots against their triangle-and-two and box-and-one and put some pressure on them."

Frederick put a lot of pressure on itself as Mitchell forced its way back into the game.

The Pequots shifted defense, keying to take away Thomas, who opened the second half with five straight points to establish a 45-31 advantage. The Cougars came down and threw th ball away on three straight possessions, allowing Mitchell to chip away at the lead and ultimately go ahead 65-64 with 3:52 remaining.

"One thing I always say is that a game is 40 minutes long, but you can't outplay a team for the whole 40 minutes," Mehl said. "There is two, three, four minutes where you are going to have a lull and they are going to charge. It happens to both teams. You just have to make sure your four-minute run is better than their four-minute run."

After three ties and three lead changes, Frederick only needed three minutes to complete their run.

Branson hit a layup off a rebound to give the Cougars a 68-67 lead with 2:39 remaining. The Cougars erased Mitchell's height advantage by outrebounding the Pequots, 52-32.

Then it was Luckett's turn, by hitting a pair of 10-footers off the right wing, the last for the final points of the game with 44 seconds remaining, giving Frederick the three-point league. Ironically, the Cougars defeated Mitchell by the same 72-69 score on the same HCC floor in a January tournament hosted by the Hawks.

"I knew my outside shot wasn't falling and that I had to drive to get past (the defense)," Luckett said. "I saw that they were putting pressure on Dani. That gave me the opening when I saw the weakness in their defense. Those are the biggest shots I've ever hit."

"One more to go," Mehl said. "This is what we have been playing for our entire lives. Not everyone gets the chance to play for a national championships. This is where I said we would be ... I hope we have some believers now."

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