HAMPSTEAD — The audience was quiet through most of Sunday evening's game betweenHunt Valley Imports and Nick's Pizzaria for the North Carroll recreation basketball league Senior Division post-season championship.
The 200 or so spectators in the North Carroll High gym showed little emotion as that game for the seventh- and eighth-grade title droned ontoward its conclusion, with Nick's holding a steady double-digit lead.
But everything suddenly changed in the final minutes.
Hunt Valley staged an improbable comeback, and spectators at each end of the gym began alternately erupting as the teams' fortunes changed back and forth near game's end.
Then the place grew silent while Hunt Valley's Art Crouse calmly tied the game with two free throws with eightseconds remaining in the game to send it into overtime.
After he did, the Hunt Valley fans went wild.
But the folks at the other end of the bleachers wound up getting the last cheer, as Nick's prevailed in overtime, 49-46.
Afterward, with most of the spectators gathered in the lobby for the awarding of trophies, the Men's Division played its post-season championship game to a nearly empty gym.
But the lack of fan interest didn't disturb the Blue squad, as it held off a late Gray rally to win, 83-79.
Earlier, in the Junior Divisionchampionships for fourth- through sixth-graders, Miller-Liberto rallied in the second half to top Dr. Deigert's, 37-32.
The three games climaxed the annual Dixie Tournament, a post-season festival that closes the North Carroll recreation council's basketball season. The tourney also featured individual competition in free-throw shooting, one-on-one and two-on-two for the two youth divisions.
The Junior game saw regular-season fourth-place finisher Miller-Liberto complete a rags-to-riches story by topping second-place Deigert's.
Miller-Liberto, coached by Dawn Boone and Julie Martin, trailed 21-16 at halftime but rallied behind the shooting of Jeffrey Bradford (16 points) and Greg Miller (13).
Justin Malbrough poured in 26 points in a losing cause for Deigert's, which was coached by Sid Malbrough and BillVaughn.
In the men's division, Blue coach Troy Warehime again showed he is an excellent judge of basketball talent. Each year, teams are formed by choosing up sides after the coaches watch the players ininformal games.
Warehime's squad was making its fourth consecutive appearance in the divisional finals, and his teams now have won three.
"A lot of the guys have played with me before, and I was able to get them in the draft," said Warehime, a North Carroll grad who also coaches the school's junior varsity boys' basketball squad.
ButWarehime was one of his own best players as he scored 25 points on avariety of outside jumpers. The top Blue scorer was Mike Lynch, who bulled his way inside for 27 points.
Gray Coach Kenny Taylor said two Warehime three-pointers, one on the last shot of the first half and the other opening the second, were the difference.
"They put usdown by 15 (49-34), and we had to battle back the rest of the game,"said Taylor.
But Gray nearly succeeded.
Led by Bill Jenn, DougEckard and Denny Snyder, who had 22, 20 and 15 points, respectively,Gray cut the Blue lead to 81-77 and had possession with 27 seconds left in the game.
However, a Gray three-point try failed and Blue managed to hang on.
"We needed another two minutes," Taylor said inpost-mortem.
Hunt Valley, though, didn't need that much time to catch up in the Senior Division title game.
It trailed, 37-31, withonly 1:40 left before Scott Hensley and Barrett Gugliotta hit baskets and Crouse swished his free-throws to knot it at 39.
But Jeff Baldwin, who led all scorers with 24 points, scored six of them in the overtime period to win it for Nick's.
"Give credit to my kids," said Hunt Valley coach Cindy Miller. "They wanted it bad and worked forit. They tried and did a great job."
Dan Bowles, filling in for ailing Nick's coach Jerry Baldwin, was happy to give credit to his foes.
He added, "Our kids showed a lot of class to come back (after losing the momentum) and win in overtime. We got a little rattled but came through when it counted."
In the Junior Division girls' individual competitions, Jackie Nave topped Laurie Kiler for the free-throw title, Jackie lost to her twin sister Jamie in the one-on-one finals, and the two Naves combined to top Laura Pyzik and Lisa Shamer in the two-on-two finale.
Young Jeff Baldwin also had his shooting touch in the Senior Division boys' free-throw championships, as he defeated Brian Mayle. Andy Bair beat Tim Pfoutz in the Senior one-on-one, and Bair and Robby Leaming defeated the Hunt Valley duo of Hensley and Crouse for the two-on-two title.
In the Senior Division girls' championships, Susie Warehime showed she can shoot like her big brother, Troy, as she topped Julie Baker in the free-throw competition. However, she lost to Cori Bradford in the one-on-one.
Jill Ballard and Baker combined to defeat Bradford and Jenny Cockey for the two-on-two crown.
The Junior boys' competitions will be completed at a later date.