Cougars more confident, pursue a happier ending

February 28, 1993|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

Fallston's girls basketball team took everyone in Class 1A by surprise last year, going to the state title game with four freshmen in the lineup.

This year, the Cougars won't surprise anyone. With a 16-4 record, the Cougars have won 13 of their last 14 games, including nine in a row.

The freshmen phenoms of a year ago -- Candy Credito, Suzy Harrison, Lori Heffley and Jenny Weber -- now are seasoned sophomores. All have started at least a few games along with seniors Pam Toth and Cindy Jenkins.

Since the beginning of the season, they have talked about going one step further and becoming the first Harford County girls team to win a state basketball title.

"If we don't win, it wouldn't be the end of the world," said Credito, who plays center. "It's been a great season up to now, but we would like to go one step further than last year. It would be great if we could win, especially for our seniors. It would be the perfect ending for them."

The Cougars already have won one title that eluded them a year ago -- the Harford County championship. A 56-44 upset of defending county champ C. Milton Wright on Feb. 17 followed by Tuesday's 44-34 win at Edgewood gave the Cougars the title outright.

"We ended the season on a high note, winning the county championship solely," said Jenkins. "That gives us some added motivation to keep on going."

The Cougars, the top-seeded team in Class 1A, Region III, begin their state title quest Thursday night when they play host to the winner of Tuesday's game between fourth-seeded Perryville and 5 Bohemia Manor. Kent County is seeded second with

Joppatowne third and Rising Sun sixth.

If it wins, Fallston will play host to Saturday's regional championship.

The Cougars aren't looking too far ahead, because they know the route through the regional playoffs can be tough. Last year, the Cougars were heavy favorites over Joppatowne in the regional final, but they struggled to take a 44-40 victory.

"Getting through regionals is always a concern," said coach Nancy Ferguson. "We could get Joppatowne again and we only beat them by 10 [twice this season]. Last year, we had a tough game against them in the regionals, but I think that helps if you get through to the states."

Once they got to the states last March, the third-seeded Cougars beat second-seeded Snow Hill (21-5), of Worcester County, 45-40, in the semifinals before losing to top-seeded Williamsport (23-0), of Western Maryland, 34-21, in the title game.

After another year of experience, though, the Cougars are playing with more confidence.

"Now that we've worked together a year longer, we almost know each other like the back of our hands," said Jenkins, who averages four assists and four steals. "That especially helps us on defense, which is the main part of our game. We're better in our transition game and a lot of our offense comes from our defense."

Last year, the Cougars mainly relied on their 1-2-2 defense to hold teams well below their scoring averages. Against Williamsport in the title game, the Cougars gave up only 34 points to a team that had been averaging 58.

This year, Ferguson used a variety of defenses to counter the opposition's strengths, and the Cougars have held their pTC opponents to an average of 35 points.

Offensively, not much has changed either. The Cougars don't rely on a single player to carry them.

Only Toth, a forward, averages in double figures (11). But five others average between five and eight points. Credito (7.6), Heffley (7.2), Harrison (6.7), Weber (5.6) and Jenkins (5.2) each .. are capable of a big game.

"That may be our greatest strength," said Ferguson. "Our balanced scoring shows that our opponents can't key on one person. A balanced team is much harder to defend against."

Ferguson also has gotten a strong showing from her young bench. Freshmen Beth Rappold, Suzanne Kontrabecki and Rachel Simon have seen action as have senior Lisa Taylor and junior Daina Burton.

Although the atmosphere is a bit different from the thrill of last year's unexpected title drive, the Cougars seem to have an excellent chance to return to the state semifinals March 12 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Catonsville.

"I think we were all just a little amazed last year," said Ferguson. "At the same time, we were a little apprehensive -- was the bubble going to burst?

"There was a lot of excitement with the freshmen when they showed they could play. This year, everyone is on an even keel. There's not an abundance of excitement or depression, just 11 very determined young ladies."

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