Bel Air's buzzer-beater victory over C. Milton Wright's girls basketball team Thursday night will go down as an upset. But this may be the last time a Bel Air victory can be considered an upset.
In the past five meetings between the two rivals, Bel Air has won four. Although the Mustangs may look stronger on paper, Bel Air usually finds a way to win.
"We're always the underdog against C. Milton Wright," said guard Stephanie Reynolds, who led the Bobcats with 14 points. "We're just kind of doing it quietly. We're not getting all the attention, but that's OK, because when you get all the attention it puts a lot of pressure on you."
This time, Bel Air (2-4, 1-0 league) played excellentdefense in the first half as it ran up an 11-point lead and then fought off a late Mustangs challenge.
Six-foot center Dawn St. Clair scored the game-winner on a follow-up at the buzzer. Guard Lisa Thomas launched a 10-foot jumper with five seconds left and St. Clair, uncontested, was in perfect position for the carom off the front of the rim. St. Clair finished with 11 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks.
Just three minutes earlier, C. Milton Wright (4-2, 0-1 league) hadused a pressure defense to tie at 44 on Leigh Biggerman's 16-foot jump shot. Kim Haker gave the Mustangs their first lead since early inthe second half when she sank both ends of a one-and-one with 2:41 left.
Bel Air forward Shannon Ramsey tied the game at 46 with a short, off-balance jumper on a feed from Heather Heitz with 2:26 left.
During the next 2:25, each team missed four shots and the front endof a one-and-one. But Bel Air grabbed nine of 10 rebounds -- including the game-winner -- to hold off the defending county champs, who had lost key rebounders Stacey Milton and Kelly MacNeill to fouls. St. Clair had three rebounds in the final two minutes.
Overall, the Bobcats out-rebounded the taller Mustangs 61-49. Heitz grabbed 16 and Amy Sullivan came off the bench to get 10, including several key ones late in the game.
"We gave Bel Air too many second and third opportunities," said Mustangs coach Gloria Liedlich.
"They controlled the boards. You can't give a team four, five shots and you get the ball because it goes in. This is a young team and maybe they have to experience losing before they get hungry."
Bel Air, however, came outhungry. Although they had only won one game before Christmas, the Bobcats had played some tough competition.
"Some people don't like our out-of-county schedule, but it gets us ready for our county schedule," said Bel Air coach Phyllis Hemmes, who took her team to play some tough Howard County teams.
C. Milton Wright took a 10-7 first-quarter lead, but fouls were already a problem. Bel Air got five pointson free throws in the first quarter.
The Mustangs took a 12-9 lead a minute into the second quarter, but they didn't score during the next five minutes. The Bobcats' tight defense caused seven Mustangs turnovers.
The Bobcats scored 10 unanswered points -- including sixby Reynolds -- to finish the half with a 23-14 lead.
In the second half, the Mustangs used their man-to-man defensive pressure to force five Bel Air turnovers in the first four minutes. That helped C. Milton Wright pull to within 27-22.
But the Mustangs were still giving up some easy baskets inside. They held St. Clair scoreless, but they let the guards dribble right by for layups. Reynolds hit three layups and Thomas added two more.
Biggerman provided the second-half spark for the Mustangs with 12 points, including six in the final five minutes.
Danielle Rivas came off the bench to score seven pointsand grab 13 rebounds.
Another big test looms for the Mustangs as they host North Harford Thursday. Bel Air also could have a tough oneat Fallston. Both games tip off at 4:45 p.m.