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Leopards stake claim to conference treasure

February 10, 2011|By DAN KAUFFMAN | kauffman@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT — The Williamsport girls basketball team played the role of Vizzini on Thursday night.

The Dread Pirate Roberts — that would be Smithsburg — presented two offensive approaches. The Wildcats had to choose to stop either the Leopards’ inside duo of Katie Sprecher and Sara Rishell, or stay out on Smithsburg’s outside shooters.

Williamsport chose to take away the inside game as best it could, holding Sprecher to 13 points and Rishell to six — each finishing four points under their season average. But the Leopards’ perimeter threats turned out to be poisonous as well.

Taylor Belella made four 3-pointers and had 18 points, and Elisa Owens drained two 3s and had 10 points in Smithsburg’s 55-39 MVAL Antietam victory.

“Belella was the difference maker,” Wildcats coach Chris Malott said. “I thought we controlled Katie pretty well ... but if Owens and Belella shoot like that, you’ll see them in the (Maryland Class 1A) state semifinals.”

Smithsburg (17-1, 12-1) clinched at least a share of the MVAL Antietam championship with the victory. The Leopards can win the title outright with a victory at Boonsboro on Monday, or if Catoctin loses to North Hagerstown tonight.

Belella has found her shooting touch of late, averaging 12.7 points over Smithsburg’s last seven games — including four games of at least 14 points.

“We always have Katie and Sara producing, and Coach (Katy Barnhart) always says if I can score, it opens things up for them,” Belella said. “Coach tells me if I’m in a groove, keep shooting.”

Smithsburg opened the game with a 10-3 run, and a 9-0 run gave the Leopards a 19-7 lead with 7:11 left in the first half.

Williamsport (6-13, 5-8) started hitting the offensive glass — Kayla Ewing scored five points off second-chance opportunities — and Allison Gulnac found her shooting touch, making two jumpers and a 3-pointer as the Wildcats cut the lead to 23-19 with 46 seconds left in the half.

But Belella drained a 3 from the right wing with 28 seconds left, and Owens drilled a 25-footer at the buzzer to give Smithsburg a 29-19 lead at the break.

“They were big 3s. One of those was way out there,” Barnhart said. “We preach contributions from everyone, and Elisa did her part.”

“That was a killer at the end of the half,” Malott said.

The Wildcats never got within single digits in the second half. Belella made three 3s in the third quarter — the first two helped Smithsburg’s lead grow as big as 41-23. An 8-0 Williamsport run cut it back to 10 before Belella’s final 3 of the quarter made it 44-31 entering the fourth.

Sprecher scored seven of her 13 points in the fourth quarter to help close the game out.

Smithsburg finished with 18 assists — Alexis Andrukat led the way with eight and Rishell had four in addition to her 10 rebounds and six blocks.

“We’re very unselfish and we’re looking for each other, and that shows how much confidence they have in each other,” Barnhart said.

Gulnac and Ewing each scored 11 points for Williamsport. Ewing had nine rebounds and Stacey Christy added eight boards.

“We’ve played three straight games, and to play Middletown as tough as we did, and then keep battling tonight even when we were exhausted ... we’re 0-3 this week, but I’m proud of them,” Malott said.

Smithsburg 55, Williamsport 39
SMITHSBURG (17-1, 12-1)

Harbaugh 1 2-4 4, Sprecher 5 3-6 13, Andrukat 1 2-2 4, Belella 7 0-0 18, Owens 4 0-0 10, Rishell 3 0-0 6. Totals 21-42 7-12 55.
WILLIAMSPORT (6-13, 5-8)
Arnone 2 0-0 4, Myers 2 1-2 5, Ewing 5 1-4 11, Gulnac 5 0-2 11, Scott 3 1-2 8. Totals 17-53 3-10 39.
Smithsburg    15    14    15    11    —    55
Williamsport    7    12    12    8    —    39

3-point goals — Smithsburg 6 (Belella 4, Owens 2), Williamsport 2 (Gulnac, Scott). Rebounds — Smithsburg 30 (Rishell 10), Williamsport 25 (Ewing 9). Assists — Smithsburg 18 (Andrukat 8). Steals — Smithsburg 7 (Andrukat 3). Turnovers — Smithsburg 16, Williamsport 16.

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