North Harford's girls basketball team had hoped to come home from the Holly-N-Hoops Tournament with one more Christmas present, but its hopes turned to frustration Thursday night.
The Hawks were set to play Southern for the championship of the Holly Division of the tournament, played at the University of Maryland's Baltimore County campus near Catonsville.
Instead of playing, they had to forfeit. Because of the threat of snow, Harford County school administrators would not let coach Lin James' team -- or any other county team -- make the trip to the tournament.
"I was very disappointed and very upset," said James. "I guess the right decision was made, but it's difficult to explain to the students, especially since we thought we had a good shot to win.
"I just hope it doesn't jeopardize our chances of being invited back. We would very much like to go again. All of this was beyond my control," said the coach.
The Hawks weren't the only team to forfeit a title game. In the Hoops Division, Severna Park forfeited its 9 p.m. title game to Seton Keough.
In their semifinal at the fifth annual tournament, the Hawks romped, 59-34, over Leonardtown, of St. Mary's County. Both James and her players said they thought they had a good chance to beat Southern, of Anne Arundel County, in the Holly final set for Thursday at 7 p.m.
James had been looking forward to playing Southern, a team she has not beaten in 25 years of coaching at North Harford. She is friends with Southern coach Linda Kilpatrick.
Southern beat the Institute of Notre Dame, 45-38, in Wednesday's other Holly semifinal.
Adding to North Harford's frustration was the missed opportunity for two Hawks players, Carie James and Tracy Thompson, to earn a spot in the tournament record book. Both had chances to jump into the top 15 tournament high scorers which are listed annual in the tournament program.
Carie James, who had 27 points and 18 rebounds, needed just eight points and two rebounds to crack the top 15 in both. Thompson, who had 17 points, also had an outside chance to get into the top 15 in scoring.
In Wednesday's semifinal, the Hawks started off ice-cold, missing their first five shots including three layups. North Harford didn't score its first field goal until 3:22 remained in the first quarter.
James, who had hit three free throws already, scored on a feed from Thompson for a 5-0 Hawks lead.
"It's always rough for us the first five minutes," said the 5-11 center.
"All of the beginnings of our games are slow, but once we get going, we're all right."
Luckily for the Hawks, Leonardtown also missed its early shots, going 0-13 through the first 5 minutes.
The Raiders had a lot of trouble trying to stop the Hawks' inside game.
With a front line of 5-11 players in James, Shannon Bracken and Cathy DeRan, the smaller Raiders got into foul trouble early. The Hawks shot 30 free throws in the game and hit 17. Point guard Valerie Phipps had six assists.