WESTMINSTER — Spangler Construction took to the floor Sunday afternoon at East Middle School, hoping to win a second consecutive Carroll County Women'sBasketball League post- season title from Cockey's Tavern.
But itcouldn't get past Sandy Storey.
Cockey's center, easily the tallest and most dominant player on the floor, scored 31 points to lead her team to a 51-41 win over Spangler, a squad comprised primarily of Western Maryland College graduates.
The verdict avenged Spangler's two-point championship game victory last season over Cockey's.
Sunday's finale matched two depleted teams; Cockey's suited up six players and Spangler only five.
The latter, overmatched in the middle against Storey and forward Barb King, relied on outside shooting and a tenacious defense that forced their taller opponents into a number of turnovers.
That combinationkept Spangler, a 4-5 regular-season team, in the hunt until regular-season champ Cockey's ran a 14-4 spurt late in the game to win it.
Cockey's coach Carol Eustis acknowledged that her team may have beenoverconfident against Spangler, a squad it had beaten twice during the season.
But Eustis, who formerly coached 20 years at Essex Community College in Baltimore County, also said her players paced themselves.
"In the back of their minds, they knew they could win if they could keep it (the lead) at three or four points one way or the other," Eustis said.
Spangler's strategy was to stop Storey inside, but it was unable to keep the Westminster High and Mount Saint Mary's grad from continually maneuvering in close for easy baseline jumpers.
With Storey hitting 11 points, Cockey's moved to an early 13-8 lead.
Spangler then rallied with the outside shooting of Colleen Gohegan and Alice Gwynn, plus some turnovers by Cockey's, that led to easy baskets.
Gohegan's jump shot put Spangler ahead, 17-15, with 5:30 remaining in the half, and it clung to a 22-20 lead at intermission.
Storey, though, paced an 11-0 Cockey's barrage early in the second half to put it ahead, 31-26.
Spangler clawed back as Tanya Rhoten's jumper tied it at 37 with 8:04 remaining.
But Storey, virtually unstoppable despite being double-teamed most of the time, hit a jumper coming across the lane to put Cockey's ahead for good, 39-37.
The next five minutes saw the Spangler players, forced to play the entire game without substitution, finally stumble.
They committed seven turnovers during that time, killing any chance of coming back.
"The last few minutes we got a little sloppy in the end and lost our momentum," Gohegan said later.
She added that a combination of fatigue and stepped-up Cockey's defense contributed to her team's late demise.
Rhoten's jump shot brought Spangler within two at 43-41 with 3:48 remaining, but Cockey's scored the last eight points to leave its stubborn foe behind.
Rhoten's teammate Laura Winner tried to look at the bright side, even though her team was on the losing end.
"We were tired, but we were encouraged by the fact that we stayed with them," Winner said.