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Gaels saved by pressue points

December 20, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

The St. Maria Goretti boys basketball team forced the issue in the fourth quarter with a staunch defense that became its best offense.

Turning nine Smithsburg turnovers into 14 points, the Gaels outscored Smithsburg 23-7 in the final eight minutes on Tuesday to post a 50-36 victory.

"We didn't do much offensively on our own," said Goretti coach Cokey Robertson. "We got our baskets off our defense. Our full-court pressure turned the tide in the fourth quarter."

Smithsburg (1-4) had wrestled any momentum away from the Gaels in the third quarter as Josh Edwards scored six points that helped the Leopards to a 29-25 lead before Goretti's Logan Bolinger swished a deuce at the buzzer to make it 29-27.

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"We played three good quarters, but that basket at the buzzer was big," said Smithsburg coach Eric Gerber. "We thought we had (the shot) defended pretty good."

Mitch Bellella had a steal for a bucket to knot the game at 29-29 and Smithsburg's next two turnovers resulted in a pair of converted free throws each by Kevin Breslin and Ben Alencherry. Another turnover was converted to a field goal by Bolinger and the Gaels had a 35-29 lead with 6:50 still to play.

Bolinger was the beneficiary of three more Smithsburg turnovers, hitting two free throws and two field goals as the Gaels extended their lead to 43-34. After Alencherry took advantage of another miscue, the Gaels lead had reached double digits (45-34) with 1:56 to play.

"(Goretti) racheted up the defense," said Gerber. "They hurt us with traps, and we lost some of our fundamental basketball."

Goretti (4-4) started well, opening a 15-5 lead at the outset of the second period. Smithsburg starter Jimmy Burgess had gone to the bench in the early stages of the game with two quick personal fouls and Edwards was scoreless.

However, the Leopards fought back behind Steve Whitt's six points and Edwards finally hitting the scorebook with five points to go to the lockers down only 18-16 at the break.

"We lollygagged offensively on our cuts ... no snap at all," said Robertson. "We had a dummy offense."

Robertson also credited 6-foot-4 sophomore Brendan Engle with a healthy defensive effort in relief of starter John Duhring, who was saddled with a fourth personal foul with 3:27 left in the third period and fouled out 15 seconds later on an illegal pick before Robertson could get him to the bench.

"It was (Engle's) most extended playing time of the season, and I thought he did an excellent job in the trap defense," said Robertson.

Bolinger ended with a career-high 21 points for the Gaels and Alencherry added eight points along with a team-high 10 rebounds.

Edwards finished with 11 points for the Leopard, who have lost four straight following a season-opening win over Francis Scott Key.

"I was pleased with our intensity, and I thought (Josh) played his best game of the year, but right now we're just going through a rough time," said Gerber.

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