During the last four weeks, C. Milton Wright has become one of the hottest boys basketball teams in the county.
With Wednesday night's62-58 upset of Fallston, the Mustangs have run up a 5-2 record through their last seven games.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs (8-11 overall, 5-7 league), that season-ending rally won't be enough to carry them into the regional playoffs.
Because of a playoff system that awards points for victories over teams in a higher classification, C. Milton Wright is at a disadvantage. The Mustangs and Bel Air, Harford County's only Class 3A teams, compete in a region that includes Baltimore County teams playing all Class 3A and 4A opponents.
In the Harford County league, the Mustangs play all Class 1A and 2A teams except for Bel Air, which will advance to the regional playoffs.
"We have a super upset against Joppatowne and get five points," said Mustangs coach George Constantine.
"We'll have a record comparable to some of the teams that make the playoffs, but we just don't have the points. Losing to Bel Air twice hurt a lot, especially when we're up against Baltimore Countyteams that play four 4A schools (worth eight points for a win)."
Despite missing out on the playoffs, Constantine is content.
"Usually at this time of year if you're not in the playoffs, you want the season to end. I wish it could go on. We're just becoming a very goodbasketball team."
With four juniors in the starting lineup, the Mustangs struggled early in the season. When the Mustangs met Fallstonearlier in the season, the Cougars (10-10, 6-6) romped, 94-57.
"The last time, they dictated the tempo," said Constantine. "They like a fast-paced offense, and we got caught up in that. We work best in our half-court offense."
The Mustangs like to work the ball around to find openings for their three-point shooters, like Brian Moen, whoscored a game-high 22 points on Wednesday, and Brian Gryzb (11 points); or for 6-2 center Bill Simmons (12 points, nine rebounds).
Junior guard Mike Weichert found most of those openings en route to 11 assists in the game. He also had eight steals.
This time, Fallston managed to keep running only through the first 8 minutes of the game.The Cougars took a 19-11 lead by dominating the boards, breaking downcourt and working the ball inside quickly to 6-3 forward Scoop Kelly(19 points, 13 rebounds) for nine points.
Then, the Mustangs slowed the pace down. Gryzb hit a three-pointer less than a minute into the second quarter setting off a 10-point Mustangs run. Led by Simmons' eight points, the Mustangs went on to outscore Fallston, 19-8, the rest of the quarter.
C. Milton Wright led 30-27 at the half.
Kelly sparked a Fallston comeback late in the third quarter. The seniorscored five points and assisted Alex Moore for two more as the Cougars pulled ahead, 44-38.
Though Fallston led by seven early in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs battled back with strong full-court pressure and a shooting spree in which they hit nine of 11 fourth-quartershots.
Fallston's last lead came on a free throw by Kelly with 2:16 left that put the Cougars up, 58-57. Moen answered that with the last of his four three-point baskets. The Mustangs canned four of six free throws in the final 48 seconds to hold the lead.
"Every time we got the ball inside, we got hammered and we weren't getting the calls," said Fallston coach Robin Hood, whose team averages about 40 free throws a game but got 14. "But if we had played better, the officiating would have been irrelevant."
The Cougars, who will play at Wicomico High in their Class 2A regional playoff opener Monday night, also got 19 points from Steve Chaires and 13 from Matt Dontell.