Are Carroll County teams snake-bitten or what?
South Carroll is at least the second best 3A girls basketball team in the state but the Cavaliers will not be at UMBC Thursday for the state semifinals. Thanks to an incredible string of bad luck, a 22-2 South Carroll team could not even get to UMBC.
That is sad.
A 17-8 C.M. Wright team will be there, a 16-9 Mount Hebron squad is in the 3A final four, and a 16-9 Howard team came within one game of making the final four.
That same Howard squad was the defending 3A state champion with a 16-11 record.
Can you believe it?
Howard made the playoffs last season with 11 losses because it plays in a weak 3A East Region. The Lions came back and made the regionals again with nine setbacks.
Howard and South Carroll are neighboring schools, but the Cavaliers have to play in the tough 3A West Region that is dominated by strong Montgomery County schools such as Walt Whitman and Paint Branch and an always-tough Linganore squad from Frederick County.
In contrast, Howard and Mount Hebron compete in the 3A East that includes five Baltimore city schools that aren't exactly known for producing outstanding girls basketball teams.
When 3A East chairwoman Maria Waters of Paint Branch was asked how South Carroll got placed in the west and Howard and Mount Hebron in the east, she had no good explanation.
"They are supposed to do it by geographical location," said Waters.
When asked if coaches or athletic directors might lobby a little more to get put in easier regions, Waters said flatly: "There is no lobbying."
But the system has failed South Carroll this season.
Walt Whitman (20-1) and the Cavaliers are easily the class of the 3A schools in the state. That matchup would have been a super one for the state championship.
Instead those two teams played in the 3A West title game last Saturday at Whitman where the Montgomery County team won, 60-41, on a night when everything went wrong for South Carroll.
South Carroll's leading scorer and rebounder, Nicole Spencer, hurt her
left knee early in the second quarter and was done for the evening.
Then the team's two talented sophomore starters, Lindsey Vosloh and Ce Wagener, collected their third fouls before the second quarter was half over.
Vosloh seldom has been hindered by foul trouble, but the game was played at Walt Whitman.
"It seemed like some of their players were faking to get charging calls against us," said point guard Amber Clutter, whose 12 points led South Carroll. "We had at least five fouls called against us for charging."
Those things have a way of happening on the road against good teams. That is why South Carroll needed the top seed in the 3A East.
The Cavaliers needed two more regional points and they would have been the top seed.
For instance, if they had played a 3A school instead of 1A Wilde Lake and beaten that 3A squad they would have been playing Walt Whitman before a roaring home crowd.
"Their [Whitman] fans were rough," said Spencer. "We would have been more comfortable playing at home although we had a lot of support from our fans at Whitman. It was a letdown when Ce and Lindsey got into foul trouble and I got hurt. We're used to having everybody in the game. But we don't regret our season."
Spencer said she injured her left knee when she had the ball in the paint and her knee collided with a Whitman player's knee.
"My whole body twisted except my left knee," she said. "I'm not sure what is wrong. They had to wait for the swelling to go down before they could examine it. I'll know [today]."
Clutter would not say that South Carroll would have won the game on its court, but she believes Walt Whitman was helped by its home court.
"They were familiar with the baskets. They were very tight," she said. "If we had made our free throws [6 of 18] we could have won the game."
However, Clutter said the disappointing loss didn't do anything to hurt the closeness of the team.
"We went to McDonald's after the game, sang and laughed on the bus, and then had a going-away party for Whitney Mitchell at Nikki Spencer's house Monday night."
Mitchell, a reserve on the team, was scheduled to move to Ohio with her mother in January but was allowed to stay behind until South Carroll was through with the playoffs.
Owings ends career
Francis Scott Key's Randy Owings was so close to winning a third state wrestling title Saturday night at Western Maryland College, but he ran into an incredibly tough opponent in the championship finals and lost a 3-2 decision to Steve Kessler of Owings Mills.
Kessler stretched his state-record streak to 72 victories with the win in the 1A-2A 140-pound title bout.