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Wildcats' 'heart' comes up a beat short in Westfinal

March 03, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

CUMBERLAND, Md. - Williamsport boys basketball coach Scott Mowbray has always worn his emotions on his sleeve. Friday night was no exception.

For 32 minutes, Mowbray was on his feet, doing everything in his power to get the Wildcats to play their best in the Maryland Class 1A West final against Fort Hill at Allegany High School.

And for the most part, it worked. The Wildcats played inspired, exciting, top-notch basketball. Yet they still came up short, falling to the Sentinels 69-62 and leaving Mowbray teary-eyed after the game.

"The kids played their tails off all year long. Night in and night out, they played their tails off," said Mowbray. "I'm proud of their effort the entire year."

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Williamsport (18-7) led 38-28 with 3:14 left in the third quarter after putting together an 11-0 run started by a Chad Bikle 3-pointer, one of three he made. Will Taylor and Sean Dixon each added a pair of baskets in the lane to complete the run.

"We came in at the half and we wanted to come out the first four minutes (of the second half) and get back into it, and we did that," Mowbray said. "We had them on their heels a bit."

Fort Hill (23-2) answered by turning up the heat with its full-court press, and outscored Williamsport 14-2 the rest of the quarter to take a 42-40 lead into the fourth.

"Their press took the wind out of our sails," Mowbray said. "Once we got a 10-point lead, they went to their pressure, and we made some poor decisions and some weak passes, and they did a good job turning those turnovers into points."

Both teams played remarkably on offense in the final frame. The Wildcats made 9 of 15 shots and the Sentinels 6 of 10. Williamsport took the lead three times, the last on Taylor's putback of a blocked shot for a 60-59 lead with 1:48 left.

The Wildcats made a defensive stop and had a chance to extend the lead, but that's when it all came crashing down.

"We have the ball up one with 1:24 left, we're in transition, and we lose the ball," Mowbray said. "That was the blow that sent us reeling."

Jordan Brooks made a steal and turned it into a three-point play with 1:20 left to make it 62-60. Williamsport turned the ball over on its next three possessions, and Fort Hill made 4 of 6 foul shots for a 66-60 lead with 31.5 seconds left.

After Dixon missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 22.4 seconds to play, Taylor got the rebound and scored with 18.1 seconds left to cut the lead to four. Brooks made 1 of 2 foul shots to make the lead five, and after Dixon missed a 3, Brooks made two more foul shots with 2.5 ticks left to seal the outcome.

Brooks finished with 25 points - 13 coming in the final quarter - and Zach Blank added 19 for the Sentinels, who scored 41 points in the final 11 minutes after scoring 28 in the first 21 minutes. They made 22 of 31 foul shots compared to 6 of 12 for the Wildcats.

Taylor matched Brooks with 25 points and added 13 rebounds, while Dixon had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Williamsport. Bikle had 16 points, including 11 in the second quarter, helping the Wildcats to a 17-10 lead before Fort Hill came back to take a 24-21 lead into halftime.

"What a year for our program overall," Mowbray said. "We won the MVAL Antietam title for the second year in a row, we come (to Cumberland) and take the No. 1 seed to the wire for the second year in a row. I'm disappointed in the fact that it ends up like this, but I'm proud of our season. We're going to bust through the wall one of these years."

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