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Cougars end up on Soutside of scoreboard

March 12, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

BALTIMORE - Nothing in basketball comes close to the thrill of a game-winning shot in the final seconds.

And as Catoctin's girls learned in heartbreaking fashion on Friday night, when you're on the wrong end of that shot, nothing comes close to the agony, either.

Southside Academy forward Sheree Ledbetter led all scorers with 20 points, and her final two were the difference as she drove down the lane and banked a shot off the glass and through the hoop with about 2 seconds left for a 54-52 victory over the Cougars in the Maryland Class 1A semifinals at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

Catoctin (22-4) had a timeout to use after the basket, but in the ensuing commotion - with Southside fans standing and roaring and players from both teams scrambling to make sense of it all and get in position - couldn't get the timeout called as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

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"It was chaos," Catoctin coach Amy Murray said. "I was yelling for a timeout, but it's so loud in the gym and it's hard to get that called."

It's the final game for Cougars seniors Sara Wastler (14 points, six rebounds, five assists), Emily Balogh, Sam Valentine, Sarah Hashemzadeh and Sarah Williams, all who saw their prep basketball careers come to a close in the most gut-wrenching fashion imaginable.

"It's an incredible group," Murray said. "I was shedding tears and I was telling them it wasn't because we lost, but because they're leaving us. They're going to do incredible things with their lives."

Balogh - who was held to only three points, well below her average - scored the opening basket of the game and Catoctin never trailed until the 4:18 mark of the third quarter.

Catoctin held a seven-point lead at 44-37 on Becky Cuddahee's 3-pointer with six minutes left in the game. Cuddahee scored all 11 of her points in the second half.

Trailing 46-40, Southside (20-2) ripped off an 8-0 run in 53 seconds, capped by Ledbetter's three-point play with 3:04 to play.

Catoctin tied the score three times down the stretch. Wastler's two free throws with 2:51 left made it 48-48. Cuddahee's jumper from the right corner made it 50-50 with 2:15 left, and Kate Robinson (12 points, 11 rebounds, four steals) hit a jumper from the left wing to make it 52-52 with 41 seconds left.

The Cougars turned the ball over twice in the closing seconds to spoil opportunities to take the lead. Southside made the most of its final opportunity.

"At this point, the four teams that are in (the semifinals), every team deserves to make it to the championship," Murray said. "Is it disappointing? Yes. It's a feeling I'll never forget."

Ashley Metal had 10 points and nine rebounds as she battled bravely against Southside's taller forwards.

"Everyone stepped up tonight," Murray said. "Becky made some big shots tonight. Ashley Metal underneath had some big rebounds. ... I was very confident in the girls I had out there and the girls I had on the bench. I knew whoever I put in there was going to produce."

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