Westminster, South Carroll win respect

CARROLL SPORTS

March 02, 1994|By BILL FREE

Somebody here can play this game.

The Westminster and South Carroll girls basketball teams gained some much-needed respect for Carroll County Monday when they beat two high-profile Montgomery County teams on their home courts.

Those two regional tournament victories at the two top levels (4A and 3A) in the state ease a little of the pain from a lackluster regular season for Carroll's five boys and five girls teams.

Only one boys team managed to play .500 basketball (South Carroll at 11-11) and two girls teams (Westminster at 14-6 and South Carroll at 13-6) were over .500.

Two-time defending county girls champion North Carroll fell on hard times this season and never had much of a chance to repeat.

However, the Westminster and South Carroll girls seem to be peaking at just the right time.

The Owls and Cavaliers put on a breathtaking show last Thursday night when they dueled in a one-game winner-take-all battle for the county title at Westminster. Both teams easily played well enough to win before Westminster escaped with a 53-49 victory in overtime.

The Owls have come a long way under coach Bernie Koontz, and they put it all together against rival South Carroll.

South Carroll did not have a chance to get revenge on Westminster. A Feb. 10 game between the two schools at South Carroll was postponed due to snow and was canceled when a makeup date could not be found.

But the Cavaliers had enough points to make it to the Class 3A West Regional as the fifth seed among six teams.

The first task for South Carroll was fourth-seeded Walter Johnson Monday and the Cavaliers responded with a 59-46 win in spite of severefoul trouble for their outstanding center Nicole Spencer.

Spencer, 5-feet-10, collected four fouls before the first half was over and could contribute only two points in the second half.

Never fear, junior standouts Amber Clutter and Melissa Gettemy were there.

Clutter was her usual poised self throughout the game at point guard, making almost all the right decisions to help the Cavaliers overcome a 28-23 Walter Johnson lead at halftime. Clutter finished with 23 points, five assists and four steals.

The smooth-shooting Gettemy continued to show a lot of silky moves in the lane to get open for 15 points.

Now, South Carroll must face top-seeded Walt Whitman (21-0) ** on its home court tonight at 7 o'clock in the 3A West semifinals. Whitman is ranked second in the Washington metro area and has beaten Walter Johnson by 25 points twice.

The first inclination is to write South Carroll off but think of how much more offensive and rebounding punch the Cavaliers will have if Spencer can stay out of foul trouble.

She scored seven of the team's eight points in the first quarter Monday before collecting three quick fouls in the second quarter to give her four.

And Westminster?

This is a team that plays as if it is on a mission, turning back Montgomery Blair, 48-45, Monday night at Blair in the opening round of the Class 4A West regional.

The Owls don't have three big-time standouts like Spencer, Clutter and Gettemy, but they are probably one of the most balanced girls teams ever to come out of Carroll County.

For instance, Koontz can bring fast-improving freshman center Jill Ibex off the bench to replace Beth Lister if Lister runs into a slump. Ibex is a natural on the court in spite of her youth.

The freshman crashes the boards at the right times, has a nice inside shooting touch and can steal the ball away from opponents if she ventures out front. Ibex has those quick hands that all basketball coaches dream about.

Westminster also has a talented Julie Backof (13 points to lead the team against Blair) up front.

But the Westminster backcourt has been making a lot of things happen lately with aggressive defensive play and all-out hustle.

Lauren Zuskin, Cassandra Conklin and Lauren Kadlubowski have been superb down the stretch with their intensity and smart play.

They seldom try to force the ball inside. That is the mark of a good team.

Next for Westminster is top-seeded Sherwood on the road tonight in the 4A West semifinals.

Sherwood and Walt Whitman are Montgomery County schools and have the home-court advantage against Westminster and South Carroll, respectively.

The odds are stacked against the two Carroll County schools again tonight.

But they both have the hot hand and that always means a lot in a tournament.

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