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Cougars claw way to states

March 08, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

FREDERICK, Md. - Well into the third quarter, Catoctin's Emily Balogh was in transition about 15 feet from the basket.

She dribbled right, made a spin move with her left hand picking up the dribble, faked once and went strong to the hoop for two of her season-high 26 points which catapulted the Cougars past defending Maryland Class 1A state champion Southern Garrett 66-53 on Monday night at Thomas Johnson High School in the 1A West final.

Along with the right to perform the net-cutting ceremonies celebrating the win, Catoctin (22-3) gained a spot in the state tournament and will battle Southside Academy on Friday at 7 p.m., with the winner to meet the New Town-Pocomoke winner Saturday.

"It's an unbelievable feeling right now that going to the states is a reality," said Balogh.

With their 18th straight win, the Cougars reached the state tournament for the first time since 1994. It was spurred by Balogh's play.

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"She has everything ... the all-around package," said Catoctin coach Amy Murray. "She is so quick and has explosive moves and is such a hard worker."

Balogh set the Rams (18-8) back on their heels in the opening quarter, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 13 points as Catoctin roared to a 15-6 lead with 1:36 to play in the opening quarter.

It was 20-9 after the first quarter, capped by Sara Wastler's steal and conversion, and the Cougars poured it on while Southern star Kendra McGlocklyn was suffering through shooting woes, going 2-for-11 in the first half.

Despite a three-minute scoring hiatus, Catoctin held a 26-13 lead with 3:01 to play and marched into the locker room with a 33-15 halftime lead behind stellar defense.

"The fast start was just awesome," said senior Kate Robinson, who took her 5-foot-8 frame inside for 13 rebounds and eight points while anchoring the defense. "We did so well in the transition game, got the ball up the floor and made good shots."

However, Southern Garrett did not go away quietly as McGlocklyn warmed up with eight points in the third quarter, including answering Balogh's spin move with a trey that brought the Rams back to within 46-36 with 1:31 remaining in the third quarter.

"We started getting a little nervous because (Southern Garrett) is such a good team," said Wastler, who finished with 19 points, including three 3-pointers. "We brought our 'A' game and had a strong defense."

Wastler nailed a long-range shot at the 5:30 mark of the fourth quarter to push Catoctin's lead back to 56-39. Southern answered with eight straight points over the next three minutes to slice the Cougars' lead to 56-47.

The Cougars scored their next eight points from the free throw line, including four straight by Wastler, before Balogh punctuated the win with a drive down the lane.

Balogh was surprised she had 26 points, but her effort had her in the spotlight. Several younger fans kept her busy signing autographs after the game.

"We're just so excited," Balogh said while accepting congratulations from McGlocklyn. "We were nervous about the game. (Southern) is a really good team but I thought the key for us was our quickness and conditioning."

Balogh said her team wasn't worried when the Rams made their run. "We just tightened up on our defense."

"We played to our strength tonight, which was defense and intensity," said Murray. "(Southern) is big and physical, but we were all positive coming into the game."

The Cougars made 23 of 51 shots, including Balogh's 9-of-11 effort. Southern made 22 of 52.

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