Donna Parker's quick feet and competitive instincts boosted host Arundel into the final of its Holiday Invitational Girls Basketball Tournament yesterday.
The senior transfer guard from New Jersey hit a driving layup with nine seconds remaining in overtime, enabling the Wildcats (4-3) to nip Bowie of Prince George's County in a 62-60 see-saw thriller.
"I'm just happy that we won the game. It (the winning layup) wasn't anything special; I did what I had to do to help us win," said Parker, who scored a team-high 22 points and pulled down six rebounds.
"Since the beginning of the season, I've been giving Donna the green light," said Arundel head coach Lee Rogers. "Sometimes, she acts like she doesn't want to shoot, but I always tell her to shoot more."
The Bulldogs (4-2) had tied the contest at 60 with 35 seconds left in overtime when 6-foot center Amy Ford (12 points, 15 rebounds) canned two pressure free throws. Alina Smith (13 points) tallied four straight points on a running one-hander and two foul shots to give the Wildcats a short-lived advantage.
With 16 seconds left in regulation, Arundel wing guard Mary Pat Fannon (eight points) nailed a set shot from just inside the three-point line, giving her team a 53-52 lead. Two seconds later, Bowie point guard Takiyah Jackson sent the game into its extra session by hitting the front end of a one-and-one.
"We're really beginning to believe in ourselves," said Rogers. "The girls are getting more and more confident with each game. Donna has been doing it all, rebounding, scoring, you name it. Mary Pat and Alina have also been playing well. Our inside game will get better with time, but they're still out there hustling and staying active on the boards. It's been a total team effort. I'm very pleased so far."
Rogers was anything but pleased during the bulk of the second half.
Thanks to the Bulldogs' man-to-man press, the Wildcats had fallen behind by as many as five points during the middle of the third quarter, after building up a 32-22 halftime advantage.
"My main concern during that point was slowing things down," Rogers said. "When Bowie started pressing us, we began to rush things, and we don't play well when we're out there just running around. We do a lot better when we settle down.
"Whenever they put the press on, we didn't have anyone breaking downcourt, everyone was cluttered in one place. Once we got over that, we did fine."
The Bulldogs took their first lead since the beginning of the second stanza with seven minutes left in regulation when Ford barreled through Arundel forward Tiffany Clayton for a layup to put her team up 39-38.
Less than two minutes later, Tanya Hudson hit four consecutive free throws, and forward Amy Greenfield (who led all scorers with 27 points) stuck in a follow-up to make the score 46-41. Greenfield (12 rebounds), who scored her team's first nine points in an 11-point first quarter, fouled out of the game with 2:27 to go in regulation -- much to the delight of Rogers.
"She (Greenfield) was very tough to stop. She had some good moves, and she gave us trouble underneath. They had some good size, that's what makes them such a good club," said Rogers.
Size was the key element for the county's other tournament entry, Northeast (5-2), as the Eagles held Edgewood of Harford County (1-4) to three second-half points en route to a 60-21 romp, earning a berth into the finals against Arundel at noon today.
Northeast towers Debbie Dadds (21 points, 13 rebounds) and Stephanie Lazor (20 points, eight rebounds) had a field day against a much smaller Rams lineup. Guard Tammy Kuebel added 14 points.
"Stephanie and Debbie have been playing very well together," said Eagle head coach Calvin Vain. "They really do complement each other well.
Debbie's really been banging inside, while Steph has been doing it with a lot finesse. The whole team's been doing a great job."
Dadds and Lazor combined for 14 of Northeast's 16 points during the opening period, including eight in a row within a two-minute span.
Edgewood's Monica Santana, who scored a team-high 12 points, tallied all eight of her team's points during the quarter.
Edgewood fought to within two with five minutes remaining in the half, as Jaime Kozup converted a layup and the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. Erica Pleasant's 19-footer with two minutes and 20 seconds left in the half provided the Rams with their only points for nearly 12 minutes of play. The first half ended with the Eagles leading 25-18.
"We played so much better during the second half," Vain said. "At the half, we were making a lot of turnovers on our own. I told them to start attacking the basket to free up more shots. Once we started doing that, things started to open up for us. We're looking forward to playing Arundel.
They're playing real well now. It should be a good one."