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North girls run away from Wildcats, sit alone in first

February 03, 2007|by CHRIS CARTER/Staff Correspondent

WILLIAMSPORT - The final 3 minutes, 40 seconds of North Hagerstown's first half against Williamsport on Friday night was only a sneak peek of its second-half, big picture show.

No. 1 North scored the last 11 points before halftime to take its first lead of the game and the Hubs never paused for intermission in the second half as they pulled away for a 56-36 MVAL Antietam win.

The Hubs have won six in a row and, as it stands, have a 1/2-game lead in the conference over Boonsboro and Catoctin, which had their Friday matchup postponed because of the weather.

"I thought the run at the end of the first half set the tone for the second half," said North coach Barry Brown. "We needed it because we were struggling a little bit offensively. We had to play our game, which is good, team basketball. We had to relax and be patient."

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Williamsport sisters Lindsey and Morgan Smith each hit baskets to give the No. 7 Wildcats a 13-8 lead midway through the second quarter. But the Wildcats (8-7, 5-4) missed their last nine shots of the half and North took advantage.

The Hubs (14-2, 8-1) got an offensive putback from Shauntia Hamilton and Cara Thompson dribbled around Williamsport's Jess Ellis for an 8-footer off the glass to close the gap to 13-12. North took the lead on a pair of free throws by Kirksten Mitchell and Larae Allen and Thompson each hit layups in the final minute for a 19-13 halftime lead.

"The run is what got us up and going," said Thompson, who led the Hubs with 16 points and eight rebounds. "After that, we started playing our basketball - fast-paced, running up and down the court. We took our time and got some easier shots."

North hit only 7 of 27 shots in the first half, but scorched the Wildcats over the last two quarters by nailing 56 percent of its shots (14-for-25).

"We set the tone with our defense and we started to play with more intensity. And our shooting percentage went up dramatically because of that."

The Hubs' defense swarmed Williamsport and trapped it into 18 turnovers. The Wildcats turned it over eight more times simply because of errant passes and miscommunication.

"Mental toughness," said Williamsport coach Chris Malott. "It's not a physical aspect, it's a matter of not being mentally strong.

"Mentally, North Hagerstown has it."

North expanded its lead to 14 points three times in the third quarter. Kishia Jackson scored all six of her points in the period and Thompson's turnaround jump shot made it 40-26 going into the fourth quarter.

Williamsport's last ray of hope was dimmed when Hubs sisters Valentina and Veronica Wheeler hit back-to-back baskets for a 49-34 advantage with 3:17 remaining. Veronica Wheeler finished with 11 points, five steals and four assists.

"We missed some open layups - I mean wide-open layups," Malott said. "I don't think it's a reach to say it could have been a lot closer."

Morgan Smith scored 15 of her game-high 18 points in the second half. Lindsey Smith had seven rebounds.

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