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Lions fit after 2A survival

March 17, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

CATONSVILLE, Md. - Walkersville's girls basketball team shot 23 percent from the floor, 19 percent in the second half and made no field goals in the fourth quarter - and thanks to their defense, the Lady Lions will be playing for a state championship this afternoon.

Walkersville saved its title hopes by forcing 26 turnovers in a 40-37 nailbiter over Aberdeen in a Class 2A semifinal game Friday afternoon at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County field house.

"We didn't play our best game, but when you get down to states, all you want to do is survive," Lions coach Mike Mathis said. "Hopefully, we got the bad game out of the way."

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Walkersville (23-1) will play defending champion DuVal today at 1 p.m. for the 2A championship. DuVal defeated Catonsville 54-44 in the other semifinal.

Comparing win-loss records, Aberdeen (14-12) seemed to be a heavy underdog. But the Eagles made comebacks at the end of each half and gave the cold-shooting Lions everything they could handle.

Koffi Harrison had 11 first-half points as Walkersville built a 20-12 lead with three minutes left in the half. But Aberdeen scored the half's final seven points and trailed by one, 20-19, at halftime. Walkersville made only 8 of 31 field goals in the first half.

After Aberdeen scored the first five points of the second half, the Lions hit a groove. Chelsea Trout scored eight points and Harrison added four in the ensuing 15-2 run that gave Walkersville a 35-26 lead.

But the Lions went ice cold, going the final 11 minutes without a field goal. Harrison (15 points, six rebounds) and Trout (13 points, nine rebounds) failed to score in the fourth quarter.

"It was very frustrating," Trout said. "It got scary, it came down to the last 20 seconds and we couldn't put anything in."

"Offensively, we just weren't in sync," Harrison said. "We couldn't make layups, couldn't make baskets."

D.J. Vernoy - who made only 2 of 12 field goals herself - scored Walkersville's only three points of the final eight minutes, all on free-throws. Leading 38-37, she made one of two foul shots with 28 seconds left, and one of two again with 5.6 seconds to play.

"I hadn't made a shot all day ... and my head was in the gutter," Vernoy said. "Koffi came over to me, said I was one of the best free throw shooters, and I had to hit them."

Aberdeen had three chances in the final minute to tie or take the lead. Rudina Johnson missed a layup attempt following her defensive rebound and breakaway with 33 seconds left, and later missed a tough leaner in the lane with 9 seconds to play.

Trailing by three in the closing seconds, Tameka McDonald - who led all scorers with 17 points - made a mental mistake, dribbling inside the 3-point line for a 17-footer at the buzzer that missed anyway.

"Everything seemed to be going the other way," Mathis said. "But we hung on and lived to play another day."

Ultimately, Walkersville's steals saved the Lions. Aberdeen shot 40 percent, but attempted 20 fewer shots and 13 fewer free-throws.

"We just kinda wanted to get the game over with," Harrison said. "We weren't playing well. We had to keep up the defense, because we weren't getting it done offensively."

"Everything is out of the way, and tomorrow we're gonna come out and play," Trout said. "We think we can win tomorrow."

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