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Lions meet their match in 2A final

March 14, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

CATONSVILLE, Md. - The Walkersville girls basketball team has enjoyed numerous thrills of victory with a state championship and 46 straight wins.

That might have made the agony of defeat sting all the more on Saturday.

Walkersville's quest to defend its Maryland Class 2A state title and finish the season with an unbeaten record came to a screeching halt as Potomac overmatched the Lions for a 62-37 victory in the championship game at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County's RAC Arena.

Potomac (24-2) showed Walkersville plenty of quickness, something no other team had shown the Lions this season.

The problems only compounded as the Lions left their shooting in Frederick County, hitting just 19 percent (10 of 52) of their attempts.

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"We gave it our best effort," said Walkersville coach Mike Mathis, who has helped elevate the Lions' program to prominence during his seven years. "(Potomac) was a bigger and more quicker team. We just couldn't sag off of them defensively."

Senior D.J. Vernoy hit a 3-pointer in the first 13 seconds for a 3-0 lead, Walkersville's only lead and the last time the Lions would score a basket for nearly a half.

Potomac senior guard Lauren Brittingham started out by singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to the game, then kept the rhythm by scoring the Wolverines' first five points, leading to an 18-2 run that seized control of the game.

Potomac led 18-5 after the first quarter and continued to swarm the Lions, who went 14:33 between baskets.

Gina Casadei hit from the right corner and leading scorer Chelsea Trout scored her only basket of the game to give Walkersville a hint of momentum heading into halftime.

The Lions trailed 29-16 at the half after hitting just three of their first 24 shots.

"We were down by 13 at the half, but as a group we thought we could still come back," Trout said.

However, Potomac ended Walkersville's hopes with a 12-2 run in the first five minutes of the second half. The Lions closed the third quarter with an 8-2 rally but still trailed 44-24 with one quarter to go.

Potomac extended the lead to 51-24 and Walkersville started to unravel as Vernoy fouled out. The Lions conceded the title in the final two minutes as Mathis began substituting to bring the starters off the court for the last time.

"We didn't take poor shots, we just had a lot of them that didn't go," Mathis said. "Potomac is a very good team. We were confident and ready to go."

The Lions needed to rally from a 12-point deficit against Middletown in the second game of the season, but Potomac didn't give Walkersville any opportunities.

"Games like this happen to the best," Mathis said. "I told them in the lockers it just wasn't to be our day and thanked the seniors for what they've done for the program."

Trout - who hit only 1 of 17 shots, including 13 misses from behind the arc - was disappointed by the unfitting end to her high school career.

"It was frustrating but you have to keep on shooting ... that's what I am," she said. "They were quick and we didn't stay on them. It was a bad way to end."

Vernoy and senior Emily Lancaster led Walkersville with nine points each, while Trout ended with six. Vernoy had seven rebounds and Lancaster and Trout had five apiece as Walkersville was outrebounded, 43-27.

Junior guard Juantale Cook scored 27 points and Brittingham added 14 to account for two-thirds of Potomac's scoring. Tianna Gaddy pulled down 11 rebounds for the Wolverines, who shot 42 percent (19 of 45) in the game.

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