Sophomore guard Lisa Thomas was the last one to earn a starting spoton Bel Air's girls basketball team last fall, but Friday night, she provided the spark that gave Bel Air a share of the Harford County championship.
Thomas finished with 11 points, seven assists, six rebounds and six steals as the Bobcats beat North Harford, 45-36.
Since North Harford won the first game, 42-38, the two teams bothfinished with 12-1 league records, sharing the county title.
"This is such a great way to finish," said Heitz, a senior forward. "We have improved our teamwork all year long, and we knew we could win. Wejust had to prove it to ourselves."
While the visiting Hawks (19-2 overall) never seemed to get their game untracked, the Bobcats showed excellent teamwork both on offense and defense. Bel Air got at least six points from each starter and forced 25 North Harford turnovers. The Hawks had trouble moving the ball against the Bobcats' zone allnight.
"We really didn't have anything to lose," said Thomas. "Weknew the pressure was on them. Last year, we lost the first game and won the second one. We were hoping we could do the same thing this time."
Dawn St. Clair led the Bobcats with 12 points and nine rebounds. Stephanie Reynolds, Heather Heitz and Shannon Ramsey added six points each for the Bobcats. Heitz also had four assists.
Thomas, with four assists and five steals in the first half, helped the Bobcats take an early lead. Her three-pointer put the Bobcats up 14-8 early in the second quarter.
Then the Bobcats (15-5 overall) ran into foul trouble. Guard Reyn
olds sat down with her third foul midway through the second quarter.
That set off North Harford's best offensive stretch of the game. The Hawks scored nine unanswered points, including four from Tracy Thompson, who finished with a game-high 15. TheHawks took a 17-14 lead on Cathy DeRan's turn-around jumper on an assist from Valerie Phipps.
But Bel Air recovered quickly when Thomas fed Heitz for a short jumper and then assisted Maria Paggioli for another to take an 18-17 lead. After Thompson hit a driving lay-up, Thomas canned a short jumper, stole the ball and put it up again. Paggioli, who had replaced Reynolds, grabbed the rebound and hit the basket, giving the Bobcats a 22-19 halftime lead.
In the second half, Bel Air never let up. Ramsey, Reynolds and St. Clair scored three unanswered baskets to give Bel Air an eight-point lead. North Harford never caught up.
St. Clair, a 6-0 senior center, dominated the fourthquarter, scoring 10 of her points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Carie James finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks.
With Friday night's win, the Bobcats improved their seeding for the Class 3A regional playoffs. Bel Air will be seeded third behind No. 1 Catonsville and Parkville. In Tuesday's playoff opener, the host Bobcats will face Elkton, a team they have beaten once this season.
Forthe Hawks, the loss drops them into second place in their Class 2A region. They will have a bye on Tuesday and then face the winner of the Fallston-Wicomico game on Thursday.
But if the Hawks win Thursday, they would probably travel to Wicomico County to face No. 1 seed Parkside at 2 p.m. Saturday.