Westminster, S. Carroll girls meet with county supremacy on the line

January 17, 1995|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Sun Staff Writer

Who is the best girls basketball team in the county?

It's a two-part equation, and the first will be answered tonight when the Westminster Owls travel to South Carroll to face the Cavaliers.

The Owls, ranked 13th and the defending county champions, are coming off their first loss of the season -- 76-59 at Linganore on Friday -- after opening with 10 straight wins. No. 9 South Carroll has won 11 straight since opening the season with a loss to No. 2 Hammond. The Owls and Cavs -- head and shoulders above the rest in the county this season -- will meet again at Westminster late in the season.

Not much separates the two teams, and the parallels are uncanny.

Westminster has the inside play of veteran Beth Lister (21 ppg, 11 rpg), the versatility of Cassandra Conklin and the emergence of 5-11 sophomore Jill Ibex.

The Cavaliers counter with veteran Nicole Spencer (14.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg), Mellisa Gettemy doing a little bit of everything and a sophomore of their own in 5-11 Ce Wagener. Both teams also have strong benches.

"When it's a close matchup of quality teams like this, the little things are often the difference in winning and losing," said South Carroll coach Al Skierski. "Who's on, who's a little more focused and who's not getting rattled. The first quarter will be important to set the tone."

Westminster coach Bernie Koontz has to wonder how his Owls will react after their first loss against four-time defending Central Maryland Conference champ Linganore, which earlier in the season lost a two-point game to the Cavaliers.

"It will be interesting to see how [the loss] affects us," he said. "It will be a good test to see how we respond and get back on track. They're going to be looking to come out aggressive and prove to the people they're the best in the county, and we have to step up and prove ourselves again."

The Cavaliers were the favorites going into last season and dropped a 63-59 overtime decision to the Owls at Westminster in their only meeting. The game at South Carroll was canceled because of snow. With three first-team All-County players returning -- Spencer, Gettemy and senior point guard Amber Clutter -- many believed going into the season the Cavaliers were again the team to beat.

Koontz believes the key for the Owls will be defense and rebounding.

Skierski said senior leadership will play a big role. That's where Clutter comes in, providing the Cavaliers with an excellent field general.

"Amber's numbers might be off a bit point-wise, but she's running the offense and defense and distributing the ball very well with teams keying on her."

Both coaches believe it will be another close contest, similar to last year's overtime game.

"I think it's going to come down to the end of the game and whoever steps up and plays with control. The decision-making in the end will be important," Koontz said.

The success the two programs have had in the past couple of years has made for some quality girls basketball in the county. The last couple of seasons before that were a one-team show with North Carroll ruling.

"Both teams have done pretty well the last couple of years and it's good to see the level of basketball rise again in Carroll," he said.

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