WESTMINSTER — It was noisy in the St. John Church gym Friday night.
The undefeated St. John Eagles were playing the Woodbine Rebels for the regular season Carroll County Boys' Basketball League A Division title beforea boisterous crowd of about 450.
The fans saw an exciting game that wasn't decided until St. John center Matt Laczkowski hit two key buckets in the final 1:30 to cincha 49-42 win.
The finale matched offensive styles seemingly unsuited for the teams using them.
Taller St. John relied on the outsideshooting of Stu Curtin, Chris Dain and Matt Smith, while the shorterRebels relied on the inside drives of guards Bryce Baker and BrandonDorsey.
"We don't have the board strength. I didn't want outside shots," said Rebels coach Ron Gywn, explaining why his smaller team relied on shooting almost everything from inside the paint.
But those seemingly inappropriate styles were both successful at varying times in Friday night's see-saw affair.
St. John, passing the ball around the perimeter for open shots, jumped to a 15-7 lead early in thesecond quarter.
Then Baker, using his size and quickness, got rolling and began driving almost effortlessly through the Eagles' zone for easy layups and scoring 12 second-quarter points.
He climaxed the run with a short shot in the lane 13 seconds before halftime, putting the Rebels up for the first time, 26-25.
But St. John coach Gary Dain adjusted his zone defense at halftime, bringing another guardto the top of the circle to keep Baker from spinning into the lane and driving.
While it slowed Baker in the third quarter, St. John'soffense also stalled and the Rebels widened their lead to 38-33 at quarter's end.
"(The Eagles) hadn't been patient on offense and getting the ball into the middle," observed Dain.
Despite his team's failure to execute, Dain stuck with that offensive style and his patience paid off.
Baker, who had a game-high 23 points, was held scoreless by the revamped St. John defense in the fourth quarter. And theEagles, led by Laczkowski, went on a 14-2 spurt to win the game.
Laczkowski tied it at 40 on a three-point play, then hit a bank shot with 3:25 remaining to put his team ahead for good, 42-40.
After the Rebels came within 43-42, Laczkowski hit two layups in the closingmoments to clinch it for St. John.
"They were well-balanced, withgood passing and control of the boards," Gywn said. "Tonight the passing team won."
Both coaches look forward to a possible rematch inthe league's post-season tournament, but that will be played at the larger South Carroll High gym, which could favor the faster Rebels.
But Dain says that sword cuts both ways. "We're a slow team, but I have five or six players who can score."
"We have good outside shooters, and we can spread them out with our passing."
Gywn, though,had other ideas as he stood next to Dain, listening.
"I won't wish him luck, I'll tell you that," he said good-naturedly.