Christine Copeland, the 5-foot-10 Oakland Mills senior who has put "power" into her forward position all season, met her match Saturday.
Then again, all of the Scorpions shared in Copeland's misfortune, as their 60-42 whipping by a taller, quicker, deeper DuVal (Prince George's County) team in the 3A girls basketball state title game indicated.
Copeland, though, was dealt the toughest matchup on the floor -- 6-3 DuVal center Cheri Douglas. And after Douglas had posted an 18-point, nine-rebound effort (both game highs) in just 17 minutes, Copeland tried to come to grips with the wrong end to a dream season, a season that was supposed to conclude with the first state title in school history.
"This is the second time this year it's happened. The second time I've come so far without getting it (a state title)," saida tearful Copeland, alluding to the Oakland Mills soccer team's lossin the state finals last fall to Severna Park. "This is my senior year. I don't have a chance to come back any more. It really hurts."
That wasn't all that hurt. "I feel like I just got out of a boxing match," added Copeland, who finished with a hard-earned 10 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes. "I tried to stay with her (Douglas), but she really banged me up in there. She's a big girl."
The ironic part of Douglas' performance, which included 9-for-13 shooting on mostly layups and assorted rebounds plucked from over the backs of the smaller Scorpions, was how little the Tigers needed her when they tookcontrol of the game in the first half.
The Tigers came up with the game's first run, a 15-2 spurt that gave them a commanding 33-20 halftime lead. Douglas contributed only one layup to that outburst. DuVal led by at least 11 from there.
Oakland Mills (23-3) coach Teresa Waters, who went into the game minus a key weapon in senior point guard Stefanie Magro -- she watched the tournament while recovering from an appendectomy a week before -- hoped to get Douglas in early foul trouble. When Douglas complied by collecting two fouls in the firstminute and a half, things appeared to be looking up for the Scorpions. But DuVal showed it was far more than a one-big-girl team.
The Tigers had no one else to match Douglas' imposing stature, but they still had 5-11 forwards Deidra Ross (10 points, six rebounds) and Dasha Ross (eight points, six rebounds). They still had two excellent, 5-6 senior guards in August Kenner (nine points, two assists, two steals) and Corinda Davis (five points). And they still had the quickest player on the floor, 5-4 senior guard Karon Ferguson (six points, fiveassists, three steals).
"We were focusing on her (Douglas) probably more than we should have been," Waters said. "But she's a nightmare."
So were the rest of the Tigers, who broke down the Scorpions at their own full-court, man-to-man pressure game. Oakland Mills committed 26 turnovers and was held to 33 percent shooting (14-for-42).
Senior guard Mia Dammen finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists. But in the unfamiliar point guard role she assumed in Magro's absence, Dammen committed 10 turnovers. Her outstanding career also ended on a tough note when she fouled out with 4:42 left in the game and DuVal leading, 49-38.
DuVal also wore down Oakland Mills with its depth. Waters had little choice but to stick with her starters, while the Tigers pounded away at the Scorpions with a nine-player rotation. By the fourth quarter, which Douglas spent scoring 10 points to ice the title for DuVal, the Scorpions were dragging. Their bench was outscored by DuVal's, 12-0.
"Maybe if we had Stef, it would have been different, but the what-ifs are over," said Oakland Mills senior guard Katrina Overton, who scored six points. "As you saw, DuVal depends on all five of its players, and they stayed on all five of ours. If somebody goes out, they've got somebody else to fill the leak."
"I think we were a little intimidated and got a little dazzled," said Waters, who wound up the best season in her seven years atOakland Mills.
"This was a game in which you needed your point guard. It's as simple as that. The point guard sets the tone," she added. "The upbeat tempo that Stef produces would have made a difference."
Both teams showed their high-pressure, run-and-gun styles early.The first quarter produced 18 combined turnovers and an array of transition layups by each team. But it was apparent as the game wore on which team was wearing down.
The tide started turning after the Scorpions had battled DuVal for 12 even minutes. With 4:37 left in the first half, Dammen's two free throws tied the score at 18-18. The Tigers then began their 15-2 run, which gave them a commanding 33-20 halftime lead.
Douglas did the Scorpions another favor in the first minute of the second half by drawing her third foul. Once again, she was banished to the bench. Once again, DuVal stayed in control, even extending their lead to 45-28 at the end of the third period -- all while Douglas watched from the bench.
From the midpoint of the second quarter to the end of the third, DuVal outscored Oakland Mills, 27-10. Douglas then re-entered to deliver the game's exclamation point by scoring 10 of the Tigers' 15 fourth-quarter points.
"It was veryintense coming back on the bus," Waters said. "From the time we leftCatonsville to the time we got to the parking lot at Oakland Mills, everyone stood up and gave a speech. Everyone cried and thanked each other for this year.
"I got close to my seniors last year, but these are going to be the toughest seniors to say goodbye to," added Waters, who loses Dammen, Magro, Copeland, Overton, Andrea Romich and Suzanne Willis to graduation. "I won't see a group like that come by for a long time."