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Cougars face another tall order

March 10, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

In reaching the state semifinals for the first time in 11 years, Catoctin's girls basketball team overcame a squad with three 6-footers, beating Southern Garrett 66-53 on Monday in the Class 1A West final.

To reach the Class 1A championship game, all the Cougars (22-3) have to do is experience a little deja vu.

When Catoctin walks onto the court at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County on Friday at 7 p.m., it will be looking up at another trio of 6-footers from Southside Academy (20-2).

"It's not a new challenge playing a team that is big, but they're also quick, which presents a new challenge," said Cougars coach Amy Murray in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's the same challenge as with Southern Garrett."

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Yes, Southside is big - led by frontcourt towers Sheree Ledbeter (15 points per game), Angela Steight (15 points) and Dara Mobley (eight points). It's also a balanced squad, with point guard Tiffany Lewis averaging 11 points and shooting guard Patrice Griffin averaging 10 a game.

Southside averages 72 points per game while holding opponents to 33. Catoctin averages about 62 points while holding opponents to 39. Both teams prefer an uptempo game of "catch us if you can," and Murray isn't planning to change a thing.

"They're definitely a quick team, but we don't change our style for anyone," Murray said. "We come to play our basketball. We don't want to take the focus off us, if we take care of our business we'll get our (best) outcome.

"It's going to come down to defense, and I'm pretty sure their coach is saying the same thing. It's whoever takes care of the ball and plays defense that walks away with it."

Catoctin will turn to the two catalysts which propelled the Cougars to the region and MVAL Antietam Conference titles this season - Emily Balogh and Sara Wastler. Balogh had 26 points and Wastler 19 against Southern Garrett.

"Both of them are very unselfish," Murray said. "You look at Emily, she had 26 points last night but she also led us in assists with five. They're both very calm, poised players, which calms the team as a whole."

Balogh makes things happen on offense with her quickness, both in transition and in halfcourt sets with her penetration ability.

"Balogh is our quickest player. It's almost like she plays like a guy, she's so quick with some of her moves," Murray said. "She's quick, smart, has a great attitude and besides being able to penetrate she can make the jumper."

Wastler is a sharpshooter who has made a school-record 46 3-pointers so far this season.

"Wastler is more of a quiet leader," Murray said. "She's also very poised and does a great job leading the team as a whole but is also one who can shoot the lights out from 3."

Kate Robinson and Ashley Metal - who both average about 7.5 rebounds per game - are key players on the defensive side for the Cougars, and they'll be important if Catoctin is to slow down Southside.

"Kate is very knowledgeable and reads the whole court," Murray said. "She gets her hands on the ball and deflects it. She does the dirty work. Metal is the same way, she's not necessarily a scorer for us, but when we talk about help defense, she is the person to watch. She does an excellent job."

Catoctin has already given Thurmont plenty to be proud of. The Cougars hope to give the town a little more to celebrate this weekend.

"Our community has been awesome, they've really done a wonderful job supporting and embracing this team and we really expect a huge crowd Friday night," Murray said.

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