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North tops 'Cats with wing, prayer

February 03, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

Diez Johnson finished Friday night's MVAL Antietam boys basketball game the same way he started it - with a 3-pointer to give the Hubs a three-point lead.

The only difference was, time ran out on No. 6 Williamsport after the latter one.

Johnson's 23-foot prayer from the top of the key was answered as the final seconds ticked off the clock, sending the Hubs to a stunning 60-57 upset of the Wildcats, who suffered their first league loss.

"I looked at the clock and saw four seconds left, so I shot it and it felt good off my fingertips," said Johnson, who finished with 16 points, including eight in the final quarter. "Nobody gives us any respect, and we worked hard all week and knew we had to come out and give it our all, and that's what we did."

Johnson received the ball out front with about 10 seconds left and looked for either Tyrone Wheeler - who scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half on a gimpy left ankle - or Richie Baymon, who scored 12 points on four 3s. But in the end, neither was able to work free for the shot, so Johnson took it. It barely grazed the back of the rim while dropping through.

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It was a surprising breakthrough for North (6-10, 5-4), which three days earlier lost 76-50 at Brunswick and fell 55-44 to a Smithsburg squad that was 3-11 overall and 2-5 in the conference a week ago.

"Wednesday and Thursday were our best two practices this year, and I think they carried over," Hubs coach Tim McNamee said. "I don't think there was a kid on the team who was happy about our performance Tuesday night against Brunswick."

Williamsport (12-4, 8-1) made 23 of 43 shots, but turned the ball over 22 times and simply didn't do enough of the little things - like securing defensive rebounds - late to seal the game.

It didn't help that star center Will Taylor fouled out with 1:57 left after scoring 11 points.

"We didn't deserve to win," Wildcats coach Scott Mowbray said. "North wanted it more than us. How many times did they take the ball out of our hands on the offensive glass? How many times did they drive right past us? We didn't stop anybody. They played with desire. We played passive.

"We don't play smart. Will picked up four fouls trying to block shots instead of taking charges. We need him in the game. We turned the ball over 11 times in the first half against a 2-3 zone. Nobody turns the ball over 11 times in a half against a 2-3 zone."

After an even first quarter, North opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run on a pair of baskets by Anthony Lee - who finished with 10 points - and Baymon's first 3 to take a 20-13 lead.

Williamsport stormed back with a 13-0 run on four straight possessions - two 3s by Eric Wilfong, a four-point play by Andrew Duff and a three-point play by Taylor - for a 30-25 lead. Baymon hit his third 3 to make it a 30-28 halftime deficit.

Sean Dixon, who led the Wildcats with 12 points, scored the first two baskets of the second half to make it 34-28, but the Hubs kept battling to keep Williamsport from running away.

"We said we can't let them stretch the lead out anymore, because they're so disciplined at controlling the ball," McNamee said. "But we responded defensively and hung in there."

Wheeler, who has a high left ankle sprain and was questionable to play, had just three points in the first half. He started attacking Williamsport's defense in the second half, and scored nine points in the final quarter for North. His two free throws with 4:43 left cut the Wildcats' lead to 51-49.

"He's not 100 percent, but our guys are a little more confident when he's on the floor and he gives us another option even when he's not 100 percent," McNamee said.

The Hubs tied the game at 51 on Lee's rebound and putback while being fouled with 3:35 left. Even though he missed the foul shot, it was a remarkable play considering Lee, at 5-foot-7, was the smallest player on the floor, and it underlined the Hubs' effort.

Taylor and Dixon scored baskets on putbacks to give Williamsport a 55-51 lead with 2:09 left. Taylor fouled out 12 seconds later when Lee drove to the basket. Lee missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Johnson wrestled the rebound away and scored to cut the lead to 55-53.

Greg Minnich's basket in transition restored Williamsport's four-point lead, but Wheeler answered at the other end with a three-point play with 1:30 left to cut it to one, and Johnson made 1 of 2 free throws with 55 seconds left to tie it.

Williamsport's final two possessions ended with a turnover and Dixon's miss on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 23 seconds left.

"We did not make a single play all night other than making a couple of shots," Mowbray said. "North outmanned us and outhustled us."

North made 21 of 43 field-goal attempts and 11 of 18 at the foul line.

Williamsport made 5 of 8 free throws. Jeff Ryan finished with 10 points, all of them coming in the second half.

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