Bears tear through Middletown, 59-41

March 13, 1994|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

There were tears anyway.

Even though No. 1-ranked Hammond won its second state Class 2A title in three years yesterday at UMBC.

Even though the Golden Bears beat defending champ Middletown, 59-41, to avenge last year's title-game loss and snap the Knights' 50-game winning streak.

Even though they concluded a 24-1 season that was their best ever and included their first Howard County title and their first No. 1 ranking.

Still, the tears flowed in the locker room, especially for seniors Kacy Williams and Sonia Keiner, who have been friends since kindergarten and starting teammates since their freshman year.

"It was kind of sad because it was the last game," said Williams. "I think I've been so blessed in my life and this [win] is just another blessing."

Yesterday's championship victory came in typical Hammond style. The Bears simply wore down the third-seeded Knights (22-1) with their non-stop pressure defense and their runaway offense.

"Their quickness was the difference in the game," said Middletown coach Mark Miller. "We gave them everything we could, but they're just a very good team."

Although the Knights stayed within striking distance through the first half, the Bears' transition game eventually took its toll.

Most of the damage came from junior guard Tiki Nicholson, who scored 16 on 6-of-12 shooting. Tameka Harrison and Williams added 10 each while Kellye Townsend had nine, Keiner eight and Rene Hines six.

Defensively, Williams and Nicholson applied overwhelming pressure to Middletown's guards Kara Reed and Kristen Hofer. Reed, who averages 14.3 points, many from three-point territory, managed just 10 and only one three-pointer.

"The pressure Kacy and Tiki put on those two girls was relentless," said Hammond coach Joe Russo. "I knew if we played our game, they would really have to chase after us, and that happened."

The Bears' press forced four early turnovers and sparked an 8-0 game-opening run. Williams fed Nicholson, Harrison and Keiner for consecutive layups and Nicholson capped the rally with a short off-balance jumper.

Middletown, however, slowly climbed back, pulling within 18-15 early in the second quarter. Then Hammond put together a 10-2 run with four points each from Nicholson and Hines to go up 28-17 with 2:26 left until halftime.

Reed capped a three-point play and Hofer added a 20-footer to bring the Knights within five. "We weren't playing any defense and we weren't getting back," said Nicholson.

But the Knights could not sustain the momentum, turning the ball over on three of their last four possessions of the half.

The Knights never threatened in the second half as the Bears poured on the defense and continued to shoot well.

Hammond's only loss this year came to Elizabeth Seton in the IAABO Tournament the week after Christmas. Looking back, Russo said, that loss played a key role in the Bears' title drive.

"One of the advantages that we had was we lost a game," said Russo. "When you win that many games in a row [as Middletown had], you tend to think about when you're going to lose. That was a mental advantage for us."

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