When Nitrease Hamilton stood on the free-throw line with the game tied in overtime Friday at Joppatowne, her Havre de Grace teammates hadflashbacks from two years ago.
"Nitrease hit the free throws thatwon our last regional game and sent us to states," recalled teammateBobbi Zachry. "We flashed back to that. This was a serious game, too, because we had to win to have a chance to reach regionals this year."
Hamilton, a 6-foot center, hit that first free throw Friday with 1 minute, 24 seconds left in overtime to give the Warriors a 38-37 lead. She added two more free throws and a layup in a 42-39 Havre de Grace victory in the clash of Class 1A teams.
Joppatowne (6-3 overall, 2-2 league), which had come back in the fourth quarter from a 14-point deficit, outshot Havre de Grace, 7-2, in the overtime, but the Mariners couldn't get anything to fall. They even got the shot they wanted just before the buzzer.
After Hamilton hit her last two free throws with eight seconds left, the Mariners got the ball to guard Lauren Glaze. Her three-point attempt with two seconds left caromed offof the rim.
The Mariners played those final seconds without theirsenior leader Thori Staples (13 points, nine rebounds). Staples, a veteran swing player, had to foul Hamilton on that last play to give the Mariners a chance to get the ball back. She fouled out of the game.
"Not having Thori really didn't hurt us that much," said Mariners assistant coach Greg Komondor. "We got the shot we wanted at the end."
In the final seconds of regulation, Joppatowne had the last chance to win. Glaze netted a dead-eye jumper, but officials called Kendra Meggett for a three-seconds violation.
Havre de Grace had three chances to win in the final 35 seconds of regulation. Zachry canneda potential game-winner but was called for traveling on her approachwith 30 seconds left. Hamilton broke free on an inbounds play with 10 seconds to go, but Zachry's pass was too short and Staples picked it off. Hamilton drove for the basket with two seconds left but lost control of the ball and knocked it out of bounds.
The Warriors had appeared to be pulling away for good when they scored the final nine points of the third quarter. Zachry, who hit four of five three-pointers, capped the run with a 15-footer.
Staples spent the last five minutes of the quarter on the bench with four fouls, but she came back to score six of her points in the fourth quarter. Dionna Bishop (10points, 10 rebounds, five assists) added six more as the Mariners outscored Havre de Grace, 16-2.
Head coach Kathy Wunderlich and Komondor put on the full-court press midway through the quarter, and Havre de Grace panicked. The Warriors (3-6, 2-3) turned the ball over seven times in the last three minutes.
"We just got nervous," said Zachry, who finished with 14 points. "This team is known for that. We get up by a lot and they put pressure on us and we get nervous."
But the Warriors held together in the overtime period, even staying calm after Coach Sheilah Collins loudly protested an official's call fordelay of game.
With 37 seconds left in overtime, Hamilton (14 points, 18 rebounds) was fouled and awarded two free throws. Both teams
walked toward their coaches for instructions, but after a few seconds the official called Havre de Grace for delay of game and gave theball to Joppatowne.
"We've lost the last two games because of cheap calls by the officials," said Collins. "Tuesday, we hit the game-winning shot, but the official ran all they way out (to the foul line), called a foul and said the shot didn't count. It's been frustratingbecause the kids have been playing so well."