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Wildcats withstand Rebels' late rally

January 21, 2004|By DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

The only thing that could stop South Hagerstown's Shamika Slater in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's girls basketball game was the final buzzer -- and that was a very good thing for Williamsport.

Behind Lindsey Plotner's 16 points and Staci Grabill's 13, the Wildcats built a 16-point lead in the third quarter, then withstood Slater's eruption late to escape with a 51-44 victory in the MVAL Antietam.

"Sometimes you get on fire like that and nothing can stop you, and she got on fire," Williamsport coach Curtis Graff said of Slater. "Even when we're playing good defense, she's throwing it in."

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Slater scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the final eight minutes, including all 10 points of a 10-3 run that cut Williamsport's 46-34 lead down to 49-44 with 33 seconds left.

"We just waited a little too long to turn on the gas," Rebels coach Stacey Zeger said. "We waited until the second half and Williamsport played the entire game."

South (1-10, 1-3) had a chance to get even closer, getting four opportunities to cut the lead to three on its next possession thanks to three offensive rebounds.

But none of the shots would drop, and Williamsport's Kellyn Cole scored her only two points of the game on two free throws to seal the game with 11.5 ticks left.

"That's what hurt us the whole game, we didn't make the little shots," Zeger said. "That (possession) right there, it would have been a different ballgame (with a basket). ... Our girls have to learn to take the offensive rebound up stronger."

Plotner was held scoreless in the first eight minutes, but took over in the next eight, scoring eight points in a 14-3 run that helped Williamsport (3-8, 2-2) take a 21-13 halftime lead.

"When you're a player, sometimes you wait for the game to come to you and then you take over, and she did that," Graff said.

A 9-1 run in the middle of the third quarter gave the Wildcats a 16-point cushion, but South scored the final seven points of the quarter to get it to single digits.

Sade Williams's driving basket to start the fourth cut Williamsport's lead to 36-29, but in what turned out to be a crucial point in the contest, the Wildcats used a 6-0 run keyed by two breakaway layups in transition by Grabil to rebuild a 13-point edge.

"We looked up the floor and saw her breaking upcourt," Graff said. "She's smart, she's a senior, we saw her and we got her the ball."

That's where Slater took the game over, helped by Williamsport's seven turnovers down the stretch.

"We got out of our offense in that stretch where we ran up and down the floor like they did," Graff said.

Slater aggressively took the ball to the hoop for four layups and made three 15-foot jumpers in the final six minutes. Unfortunately for South, it wasn't quite enough.

"The girls wanted it," Zeger said. "We just waited a little too long."

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