When his best player, center Debbi Dadds, picked up her fourth foul less than a minute into the second half, Northeast girls basketball coach Calvin Vain made the only move he could.
He left Dadds in thegame.
Though unable to challenge every North County player or pass thatventured inside, the 5-foot-11 senior grew more effective as time wore on -- even if her team didn't.
"I felt at that point, if I tookDeb out, the game would get away from us," Vain said, after the visiting Knights prevailed, 58-47, Friday afternoon, for Northeast's first loss in three games. North County is 2-0.
Dadds never came off the floor. And she never received her fifth foul.
"I thought that was worth the risk because I didn't think we could win without her," Vain said.
As it turned out, the Eagles couldn't win with her, either.
The Knights outscored Northeast, 14-2, in the last three minutes of the first half to build a 28-19 lead, and the closest the Eagles would come was seven points at the start of the third quarter.
Dadds had three points and eight rebounds at halftime, but finished with 13 points, 22 rebounds (eight offensive), four blocks and four steals.
"We said if we get the ball inside, not to be afraid to go atDadds," said North County coach Sally Entsminger. "But when you start singling out somebody like that, then your players get out of theiroffensive rhythm.
"We told them to keep the ball moving, try to punch it inside and take it to the basket. We knew she couldn't be real aggressive defensively with four fouls.
Dadds said, "I had to play smart. I had to think a lot and back off on a lot of things. But Iwasn't really worried about it. I just wanted to win."
That's something the Eagles had done with ease their first two games, routing Glen Burnie, 55-27, and Queen Anne's, 78-32. But 29 turnovers and an abundance of rushed shots proved their undoing Friday.
"The teams we've been playing weren't as good as North County and we got nervous and did some things we haven't done in other games," Vain said. "But what stood out in my mind was how they clawed back at the end. We easily could have put our heads down, but we played hard at the end. It showed me we're one of the good teams in the county."
The game also showed off a couple of the best young players in the area: Northeast freshman point guard Jen Johansen and North County 6-foot sophomorecenter Joy Farmer.
Johansen scored 18 points, including two three-pointers, and grabbed five rebounds. She netted the game's last fivepoints after the Knights had tallied six straight to expand their 52-42 lead with two minutes remaining.
Farmer, in her first full season on the varsity, has 30 points in two games, including 16 against Northeast. She followed her 15-rebound performance against South River Tuesday with 12 Friday.
"She's such a strong kid and she has great jumping ability," Entsminger said. "She's real coachable and she plays hard for you all the time. And she's just learning. She's going to get better."
Senior forward Renita Johnson led the Knights with17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Senior guard Tonya Kolodziejski had eight points and 10 rebounds, and junior forward Becky Webb added 10 points and five rebounds.
"Becky Webb has come on and done a sensational job for us," Entsminger said. "And Renita is such a good player and gets a lot of notice, but Tonya Kolodziejski is wonderful for us. She's like the key that turns the lock."