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Time's up - Leopards beat Rams for 1A West title

March 04, 2002|BY BOB PARASILITI

CUMBERLAND, Md. - It wasn't just about winning and losing to the Smithsburg girls basketball team.

Sure, there was a lot at stake with the Class 1A West region title and a berth in the state Final Four hanging in the balance. But the Leopards' 56-52 victory over previously undefeated Southern Garrett Friday was about time.

Or, you could say it was about time Smithsburg won.

"I've been here watching Smithsburg play these games for seven straight years," the Leopards' junior Katy Powell said. "I remember when the team with Rachel Bachtell and Carey Brennan played right here and lost by one point at the buzzer. This is great for the seniors who have been here four times, but this one is for them."

Seven years of frustration melted away in the final 15 seconds at Fort Hill High School as Eariel Gholson redeemed herself with a pair of foul shots to make Powell's 24 points stand up for a victory.

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This time, the Leopards came out on top and have a Friday date with with either Crisfield or Mardela from the Eastern Shore at 7 p.m. at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. It's their first trip to the state tournament since 1988.

"This means a whole lot," Smithsburg coach Jimmy Powell said. "I've been coaching seven years and we've made it to five regional finals - the last four in a row. We had eight seniors on this team. I didn't know if we would win, but they were coming to play."

It took Smithsburg some time to get started before it actually began to play.

The Leopards fell behind early to previously undefeated Rams, as Ashley Liller led Southern Garrett to an early six-point lead before settling for a 15-12 advantage after the first quarter. Each team struggled offensively, but Southern Garrett maintained the lead until the Leopards turned the tables.

"We started running a little diamond-and-one defense," Jimmy Powell said. "Liller is a heck of a player and we wanted to take her out of the game, but we were only able to do it for a little while."

It was long enough for Smithsburg to mount a 14-2 run - including six points by Gholson - in the final four minutes of the half for a nine-point lead at the intermission it nursed for the rest of the game.

"We started to move the ball better and started to make easy shots," Katy Powell said. "Sometimes, (other teams) focus on the guards and Emily (Small) and Michelle (Feiser) shape up so well in the middle and get good shots."

Smithsburg led 48-38 with six minutes remaining before Southern Garrett went on a 10-1 run to close to within 49-48 with 3:16 remaining. The Rams had a chance to tie the game after Jennifer Bosley's layup, but failed to complete a foul shot for a three-point play.

The Leopards had a 53-52 lead with 15 seconds remaining when the Rams had to foul to stay in the game. Southern Garrett went after Gholson, who missed a 1-and-1 chance 17 seconds earlier.

"I've been down for the last three games," Gholson said. "I knew I had to come through today. I was honored to take those foul shots. I had confidence in myself the second time after missing the first one."

Liller missed a game-tying 3 with six seconds remaining.

Gholson followed Katy Powell with 13 points while Southern Garrett failed to win despite putting four scorers in double figures.

"I'm so happy, I started to cry," Gholson said. "I'm a senior and I've been here three times before ... I guess the fourth time was a charm."




Smithsburg 56, S. Garrett 52


SOUTHERN GARRETT (52)

Pagenhart 2, Bosley 15, Gregg 10, B. Flanagan 14, Liller 11. Totals 20 12-19 52.

SMITHSBURG (56)

Stouffer 3, Powell 24, Feiser 9, Gardenhour 7, Gholson 13. Totals 23 8-17 56.

Southern Garrett1581514-52

Smithsburg12201014-56

Three-point baskets - Smithsburg 2 (Gholson 2).

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