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Picking their spots

Leopards choose to honor seniors by upsetting Wildcats

February 10, 2007|by CHRIS CARTER

SMITHSBURG - The Smithsburg boys basketball team chose the perfect night to pull off its biggest win of the season.

Smithsburg put out a "no prowl zone" on No. 6 Williamsport, shutting down the paint with its zone defense, The Wildcats couldn't survive in the wilderness of the perimeter in a 50-38 upset on the Leopards' Senior Night.

"This was a very nice win, our biggest of the season," said Smithsburg coach Eric Gerber. "The team as a whole was a little more emotional with it being Senior Night. Everyone persevered in, what up to this point, has been a disappointing season."

There was nothing disappointing about the Leopards on Friday as they gave their seniors a fitting farewell in their final regular-season home game. Junior Josh Edwards came off the bench to lead the Leopards with 10 points.

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"This was for the seniors," said Edwards, who took a reserve role to allow for a five-senior lineup. "They've been working so hard this year and we really wanted to get this win for them."

Edwards was Smithsburg's only player in double figures, but the supporting cast was all there - with seniority. Marc Weller had eight points, Jon Reid and Jimmy Burgess each had seven and Ondre Hardy chipped in with six. Ben Walzl was the fifth member in the starting lineup of seniors.

"Such balance is important," Gerber said. "We had different guys scoring and different guys picking it up when we needed it."

Smithsburg's game plan designed to keep Wildcats 6-foot-5 center Will Taylor from taking over the game worked to perfection. Taylor scored 10, but the Leopards (6-14, 5-7) disrupted Williamsport's offense with their zone and it wasn't long before the Wildcats started heaving up 3-pointers.

Still, it might not have been so bad for the Wildcats had they been able to hit one.

"We couldn't throw it in the Atlantic Ocean," said Williamsport coach Scott Mowbray, whose team went 0-for-11 from beyond the arc and 16-for-58 overall. "We haven't seen man-to-man defense in three weeks and we still can't find a way to beat a zone."

As frustrating as it got for the Wildcats (13-5, 9-2), they still found themselves within reach after Taylor's 18-footer cut the deficit to 29-27 going into the final period.

Burgess opened the fourth quarter with a 3 to give the Leopards a five-point lead. And after an offensive putback by Taylor, Smithsburg scored six straight points - a layup by Sword and back-to-back baskets by Hardy - for a 38-29 advantage.

What had been a bad shooting night for Williamsport turned worse over the final eight minutes as it hit only 4 of 18 shots (22 percent). The Wildcats could only watch as Smithsburg drained free throws down the stretch to take a double-digit lead. The Leopards finished 18-for-22 from the charity stripe.

"The fourth quarter was huge. We showed a lot of poise to be able to pull away," Gerber said. "Emotion will only carry you so far and it came to a point where we had to execute."

Williamsport, which dropped its second straight road game, appeared frazzled from the start. The Wildcats turned the ball over on their first four possessions and eight times in the first quarter. By the time they got the turnovers controlled, its shooting had gone cold and it never got close to warming. The Wildcats led only once - 2-0 at the 5 1/2-minute mark in the opening period.

"I've been coaching a lot of years and I know when you're ready and when you're not," Mowbray said. "I could tell coming out of the locker room that we weren't into the game. It all starts mentally."

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