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Cougars use playoffs as fresh start, quick finish for Leopards

February 25, 2007|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

SMITHSBURG - Anyone who believes that the postseason is a new season with a clean slate will appreciate Friday night's playoff game between Catoctin and Smithsburg.

Catoctin lost both regular-season meetings to Smithsburg and lost nine straight games heading into the Maryland Class 1A West East Sectional playoffs.

But in the span of two days, the Cougars forgot the regular-season woes and showed new life as they scorched the Leopards for a 59-45 victory.

The Cougars (5-16) advance to meet top-seeded Williamsport on Monday.

"We've been close in some games this season, we just haven't been able to come out on top," said Catoctin coach Ryan Oman. "Tonight, we wanted to push the ball up the floor because I thought our bigger guys could outrun them. We didn't want to sit on the ball."

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Catoctin's offense stalled in its earlier losses to the Leopards - 48-45 on Jan. 5 and 47-41 on Jan. 30.

"In the first two games, we outrebounded them," said Smithsburg coach Eric Gerber. "Tonight, we got outrebounded and we shot 30 percent below what they did (in the second half). They shot the ball very well and they deserved to win."

Catoctin's sharp shooting didn't kick in until the second half. The Cougars hit only 4 of 22 shots (18 percent) in the first half as Smithsburg (7-16) inched out to a 15-13 lead.

The Cougars' second-half shooting was the polar opposite of the first half, as they hit 13 of 20 shots (65 percent), including 6 of 7 from beyond the arc.

"We had a very poor shooting percentage in the first half. The shots just weren't falling," Oman said. "We figured if we kept up our defense, the shots would keep coming, but they would begin to fall. Sometimes we just needed to make an extra pass or work it in and out one more time.

"We picked a good night to have the coming-out party for our offense."

Josh Chmelik led the Cougars with 21 points while Derrick Woelfel added 17 points - including four 3-pointers - and Matt Thompson scored 14.

"When teams are shooting the ball as well as (Catoctin) did, it's tough," Gerber said after the Cougars hit 8-for-12 3-pointers. "Some of the open looks came because we were focusing on Chmelik and then he would pass it off. He's a solid player that you have to pay attention to."

Chmelik hit three baskets in the paint and three from the perimeter to go with 6 of 7 free throws. He hauled in eight rebounds and five assists - three on 3-point shots.

But while the treys rained in for the Cougars, Smithsburg was ice cold, seemingly from every spot on the floor. The Leopards made only 17 of 56 shots (30 percent) and were even worse from beyond the arc at 14 percent (3-for-21).

Steve Whitt led Smithsburg with 16 points, while Ondre Hardy had 10 and Josh Edwards added eight.

"We didn't shoot the ball well at all, but in the second half, (Catoctin) did," Gerber said.

Even with its troubles, Smithsburg opened up its biggest - and last - lead at 20-15 two minutes into the second half. The Cougars answered with a 12-0 run - on four baskets - for a 27-20 lead. Smithsburg never got closer that two points over the last 13 1/2 minutes.

Catoctin hit 12 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

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