Atholton coach Paul Eckert and his girls basketball squad are looking forward to the "test." And what a test it will be.
With a 49-37 victory over Quince Orchard yesterday in the second annual Central Maryland Basketball Tournament at Atholton, the Raiders will face Damascus in today's championship game at 6 p.m. Two weeks ago, Damascus routed Atholton, 66-29.
"It's a test and a good opportunity to see how far we've come," Eckert said. "We'll see how much we've improved in the last two weeks. This is the team I definitely want to play."
In the other girls semifinal, Damascus defeated Francis Scott Key, 53-28.
Instead of leading the entire game, as Atholton's girls did, the Raiders boys came close but couldn't catch Magruder in an 83-67 loss. Magruder will play Frederick, an 84-71 winner over Sherwood, in the boys' championship at 8 p.m. The Atholton-Sherwood consolation is at 4 p.m.
Atholton's girls (4-3) got balanced scoring from senior forward Allison Valentino (12 points), junior forward Nicole Blankenship (10), sophomore guard Stephanie VanDeusen (nine) and junior forward Robin McGraw (eight).
Valentino sparked the Raiders by hitting her first three shots for a 6-2 edge. Playing a pressure defense, Atholton coverted turnovers into points. VanDeusen's three-point play on a breakaway layup and Kim Ruprecht's shot at the buzzer gave the Raiders a 17-8 lead.
Atholton took advantage of Quince Orchard's inept shooting in the second period. The Cougars converted one of 13 field goals, and the Raiders built a 27-11 halftime edge.
Twice, Atholton stretched its lead to 16 points in the third quarter. However, Quince Orchard (2-4) built a 12-2 run between periods, closing to 37-29 with 7:50 to play. The Cougars pressed, but Atholton broke it and made its first six shots.
"We beat their press, and we had a lot of shots on layups," Valentino said. "We had our momentum going and we were clicking."
With 6-foot-2 junior guard Alex McCrimmon scoring 33 points, Magruder maintained a constant lead over the Atholton boys. McCrimmon, who shot 12-for-20, scored 12 of the Colonels' 19 second-quarter points, and they led, 43-31, at halftime.
The Raiders responded with a pressing defense in the third quarter that frustrated Magruder (4-2) and helped an 8-0 run that cut the lead to 43-39. Atholton (3-4) remained close and cut the margin to 58-55 on Tony Stewart's two free throws with 6:39 remaining in the game. However, with McCrimmon scoring Magruder's next eight points, the lead increased to 10.
Frederick's boys, with B. J. Gibson scoring 26, led the entire distance to advance.
The Damascus girls (4-2) never trailed. The Hornets led Francis Scott Key (1-4), 28-13, at halftime. The turning point came in the third period, when Damascus built a 45-15 lead after a 17-2 run. Damascuswas paced by Kristy Geary (12 points, nine rebounds).