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Gaels confidently rally past Leopards in 4th quarter

January 24, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

SMITHSBURG - What St. Maria Goretti senior Mitch Belella needed was exactly what the Gaels as a team needed - a boost of confidence.

Once Belella found his, Goretti blew past upset-minded Smithsburg.

Belella scored all 11 of his points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter - including three 3-pointers - as the Gaels recovered from a rough first three quarters and outscored the Leopards 28-6 in the fourth for a 56-42 victory Wednesday night.

"Coach told me to shoot with confidence," Belella said. "After I hit the jumper in the lane, I felt like I had my touch back and I hit the three 3s.

"We're so much about confidence, and we came out and didn't shoot well and they made a couple shots and got the lead, and our confidence went down. In the fourth quarter, we started shooting better, rebounding better and getting our confidence back."

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Goretti (10-10) came in as the favorite, but Smithsburg (3-11) had a surprising 24-17 lead at halftime. The Leopards made 6 of 19 field goals, 10 of 12 foul shots and outrebounded the Gaels, 18-15. Meanwhile, Goretti made just 7 of 30 shots against Smithsburg's zone defense.

"It was a lack of intensity and focus," Gaels coach Cokey Robertson said. "We were standing around, going through the motions, settling for 3s. We weren't aggressive and weren't attacking."

Goretti cut the lead to two in the third quarter, but a pair of three-point plays by Josh Edwards and Terry Sword in the final minute of the quarter gave Smithsburg a 36-28 lead entering the fourth.

"We played extremely well for three quarters," Leopards coach Eric Gerber said. "This is a carbon copy of (Tuesday's 66-57 loss to South Carroll) and all year. We've blown eight first-half leads and four or five fourth-quarter leads. We've got to work through it. When we play well, we can play with any team. We've just had great difficulty closing out games."

Goretti made 10 of 17 shots in the fourth quarter, scoring as many points as the Gaels did in the first three. They outrebounded the Leopards 14-3 in the final eight minutes and forced seven turnovers with their full-court press.

"When you hit a couple shots, that gives you the confidence to play even better defense," Robertson said. "We got some turnovers and that led to easy baskets. ... (Belella) missed a couple shots early and started to hesitate, and shooters can't hesitate, so I got on him. Then he hit one and got his confidence and off he went."

Kevin Breslin had 16 points and six rebounds, while Stephon Berry added 12 points and seven rebounds for Goretti.

Steve Whitt led Smithsburg with 13 points, while Edwards had 12 points and four steals.

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