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'Cats deliver Blazers' loss on treys

March 05, 2004|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

CUMBERLAND, Md. - In a gym where legends have been made and against a team with a storied playoff history, the Clear Spring boys basketball team saw its season end in a storm of 3-pointers and a cloud of missed offensive opportunities.

Clear Spring overcame a 14-point deficit but fell short in a furious fourth quarter as Westmar advanced to the Maryland Class 1A West final with a 78-59 win at Fort Hill High School on Thursday.

For the Blazers (18-6), the loss ended a season in which they recorded the most wins of any team in recent school history.

"I'm proud of them," Clear Spring coach Don Harnish said. "They are feeling pretty low right now, but when they look back, they will take pride in what we accomplished."

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Westmar (17-4) controlled the game early on the strength of its quickness and an uncanny ability to hit the 3.

In fact, with Clear Spring leading 10-9 with just over four minutes left in the first quarter, the Wildcats opened up on the basket from outside the perimeter. When the quarter ended, Westmar had rained in six 3s on seven attempts.

And to punctuate the effort, the Wildcats' Jason Lee hit an NBA-sized 3 at the buzzer to put Westmar ahead, 26-15.

"They weren't afraid to shoot the ball," Harnish said. "In all the games we watched with them, we were pretty sure that is how they liked to play."

But what Clear Spring didn't figure on was the fact that the Wildcats would stay packed in a tight zone defense, virtually neutralizing the Blazers' ability to get more than one opportunity under the boards. And when Clear Spring did get good looks, the shots did not drop. On three straight rushes down the floor, the Blazers bricked two layups and a wide-open 4-footer in the lane.

"Frustrating is what comes to mind," Harnish said. "It seemed that everything they put up went in and a lot of our shots just wouldn't drop.

"We kept hustling and getting opportunities but it just wouldn't go our way."

But the Blazers played back into the game as Alex Tyler and Mike Snyder found some openings to bring Clear Spring to within 34-32 in the third quarter.

When Brad Turner drove the lane for a layup, Clear Spring tied the game at 34-34 with just over six minutes left.

A pair of free throws by Tyler put the Blazers up, but Westmar went on an 11-2 run over the rest of the quarter to go on top, 50-40.

In a torrid fourth quarter, Westmar went to the line 21 times, hitting 16.

"We played hard to the end," Harnish said. "Westmar is a team that lives by the 3 and they are still living."

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