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Smithsburg reaches state final-Saturday

March 22, 2002|BY BOB PARASILITI

CATONSVILLE, Md. - Greedy. Ruthless. Relentless.

None of those three adjectives described the Smithsburg girls basketball team as it slipped into full-court pressure in the first quarter of Friday's Maryland Class 1A state semifinal game against Mardela at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County arena.

"In a press, you just take what you can get," said Smithsburg coach Jimmy Powell.

Smithsburg got the lead, the quarter and the game in one burst of defensive quickness. The Leopards rode a 15-3 run to end the first quarter for a commanding lead which led to a 62-47 victory over their formerly undefeated opponent and a berth in tonight's state final.

"We went from a three-quarter court to full-court pressure," Powell said. "We started out soft to see who handled the ball for them. Then we went to the press and got a couple of tipped balls and stole a couple of passes. Our game is to push it up the floor."

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It could be called the "Smithsburg Stealth" attack. The press leaped onto Mardela (25-1) quickly and quietly. In five minutes' time, the devastation was complete. The Leopards broke a 4-4 tie with an initial 6-0 burst before closing the final two minutes of the quarter with a 6-0 run. Eariel Gholson scored seven of her game-high 24 points to stake Smithsburg to a 19-7 lead after the first period.

"I really believe the difference was the first quarter," Mardela coach Barbara McCool said.

And it was over in a snap.

"They impressed us in that all five of their players could run," Mardela point guard Kacie Sprankle said. "Usually, you play a team and only three of the players can really run. We have five who can run, too, but they didn't do it today."

With the victory, Smithsburg (23-3) plays for its fourth state title - and first since 1983 - at 6 p.m. against Dunbar.

To tune up for the matchup, the Leopards weren't perfect but played at a comfortable pace. Smithsburg controlled the rebounding in the first half and snaked through Mardela's somewhat stationary defense for easy baskets for a 29-18 halftime lead.

"I think we came out nervous. It was a big game on a bigger college court ... it took some time to get used to," Smithsburg senior point guard Jenelle Stouffer said. "I think a key factor was they were playing a zone and it opened up the floor for us to run. We are used to a fast-paced game and the press just let us get into our style of game."

Smithsburg put it out of reach in the third quarter as Gholson scored another seven and Katy Powell hit a 3-pointer to give the Leopards an insurmountable 45-27 lead as Mardela's defense left the door to the key unlocked.

The worst thing to happen to Smithsburg came with 2:23 remaining when Powell was fouled from behind and fell forward, bouncing her chin off the floor. The junior left the game with 17 points with a split chin that required stitches.

Smithsburg withstood a 3-pointer barrage by Sprankle to close out the game. Michelle Feiser had eight points and 10 rebounds for the Leopards.

Now, comes the time to be greedy, ruthless and relentless for the Leopards.

"Wow. It's incredible. I never thought this would happen," Stouffer said. "I knew we were a strong team coming in, now we are this far. Let's go all the way ... why not, huh?"

MARDELA (47)

Sprankle 5-13 2-2 17, Keeton 1-8 8-13 10, Akram 2-9 1-2 5, Ballard-Taylor 6-12 3-4 15, Scott 0-1 0-0 0, Nichols 0-0 0-0 0, Wheatley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-44 14-21 47.

SMITHSBURG (62)

Stouffer 2-7 3-7 7, Powell 8-19 0-0 17, Small 2-10 0-0 4, Feiser 4-10 0-0 8, Gholson 8-20 6-6 24, Mackey 1-3 0-0 2, Hickman 0-0 0-0 0, Gardenhour 0-0 0-0 0, Bywaters 0-0 0-0 0, Church 0-0 0-0 0, Best 0-0 0-0 0, Stanford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-70 9-13 62.

Mardela 7 119 20 - 4 7

Smithsburg 19 101 617 - 6 2

Three-point goals - Mardela 5-11 (Sprankle 5-8, Keeton 0-2, Scott 0-1), Smithsburg 3-15 (Gholson 2-8, Powell 1-3, Stouffer 0-4). Rebounds - Mardela 42 (Ballard-Taylor 11), Smithsburg 41 (Feiser 10). Assists - Mardela 10 (Ballard-Taylor 4), Smtihsburg 12 (Feiser 4). Turnovers - Mardela 26, Smithsburg 11. Fouled out - Mackey.

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