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Walkersville earns return state trip

March 06, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

WALKERSVILLE, Md. - The only thing sweeter than going to the state tournament is winning the championship.

Riding the crest of a 45-game win streak, the Walkersville Lions will attempt to repeat as Maryland Class 2A kings after sending Middletown into exile with a 48-42 victory on Friday for the 2A West title.

"This has been more of a battle this year to get back to state," said Walkersville coach Mike Mathis. "It's been tough handling the success of last year and at times it had been frustrating but in the last four weeks I think this team really jelled together."

The Lions (25-0) will open their quest for another crown Friday at 5 p.m. at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County when they battle 2A north champ City College, a 54-38 winner over Lansdowne.

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Walkersville's senior-laden unit wanted nothing other than a return, which would include transfer Ronetta Walker.

"The seniors gutted this season out," Mathis said. "Last season seemed so smooth and this year has been up-and-down."

Walkersville's sixth straight win over Middletown and second consecutive regional title game win over the Knights was in question through the first half.

Middletown coach Bill Miskell went away from a man defense and showed zone against the Lions. Walkersville shot just 20 percent from the field in the first half, but led 19-16 lead at the break.

D.J. Vernoy, Walker and Chelsea Trout each hit 3-pointers and Walker added two 2-pointers in an exclamatory third period as Walkersville charged out to a 36-24 advantage.

"It was critical to have a perimeter game with (Middletown) in a zone," Vernoy said. "They were aggressive as always. Emotions were high, but it's just so much fun to win this at home."

Down 41-28, Middletown went on a 6-0 run to crawl within seven points with 3:15 to play and the Knights were aided in their comeback effort by Walkersville's 4-for-14 effort from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes.

Consecutive buckets by Trout got the margin back to 12 and the Knights eventually ran out of time and season.

Vernoy (13 points), Trout (12) and Walker (9) were at the top of the point chart for Walkersville, which was outrebounded by Middletown, 42-30.

However, the Lions received a scare late in the game when Vernoy, in the middle of shooting two free throws, had to remove herself from the game with a right wrist injury.

"I was tripped and tried to brace myself and that was silly to do, but I'll be ready for Friday," Vernoy said while holding a bag of ice around her wrist.

In Walkersville's "in-your-face" defensive scheme, Emily Lancaster was charged with defending Middletown sophomore Kristen Waeber.

"I don't have to worry about scoring so I just go out and play the kind of defense my coaches tell me to play," Lancaster said. after she held Waeber to one field goal and only six attempts.

Waeber was just 1 of 6 from the field, but was 10-for-10 from the foul line to lead the Knights with 12 points. She also pulled down 11 rebounds. Jill Martin had nine points and 12 boards.

"Kristen just couldn't get free all night," said Miskell. "(Walkersville) is so strong it makes it difficult on you. It's so physical and bumpy with them it has an effect on you."

Lancaster summed it up good enough.

"I love this ... I'm so excited."

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