Trio of Harford teams crowd girls playoff field

March 09, 1995|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Sun Staff Writer

Until last year, no more than one Harford County team in any single year had gone to the state tournament in girls basketball, and only four schools had been represented since the event's inaugural effort in 1973.

Fallston, currently on a run of four successive final four appearances, was joined a year ago by Joppatowne, and now these two holdovers are accompanied by C. Milton Wright, a first-time entry.

Wright (17-8) will be the first of the three in action when it faces Walt Whitman (21-3) in a Class 3A semifinal at UMBC Fieldhouse tonight at 9, the last of the day's four games.

Tomorrow, it will be Fallston (21-1) against South Hagerstown (23-1) in a Class 2A semifinal at 5 p.m., followed by Joppatowne (17-5) against Southern-Garrett (18-5) in a Class 1A semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday's championship program will begin at 1 p.m.

Whitman, ranked No. 7 in the Washington metro area, lost to Bladensburg in the 1993 final, and, with a 23-0 record, to DuVal in the semifinals a year ago. An all-senior starting five includes holdover Courtney Gaine (17.4 points per game, 8.4 rebounds) and Kim Bretz (14.3 points, 5.0 assists).

"We focus on defense, and our players take pride in it," said coach Kerry Ward, who has guided the Vikings to a 67-6 record over the past three seasons. "I think they are more comfortable [having lost three games] than last year, and they are basically confident."

Wright, No. 20 in the Baltimore area, starts three juniors and two sophomores and does not have a senior on the squad. The leader is junior Erin Updegrove, a 5-foot-8 forward and the top metro scorer (23 points, 11 rebounds).

The Mustangs come in having won three games in a five-day stretch, including an emotional win over neighborhood-rival Bel Air, a team Wright had beaten twice in the regular season. Now, it must try and overcome first-time jitters and having to wait until 9 p.m. to play.

"However, I believe we have enough knowledge that we can handle those off-court distractions, make on-court changes and still execute properly," said coach Gloria Liedlich.

Fallston, like Whitman, is a top seed, and has a history of final four woes, although it is 61-7 over the past three seasons. In six previous appearances, the Cougars have made it past the semifinals just once, losing to Williamsport in 1992 as a Class 1A school.

There was a semifinal loss to Williamsport in 1993 and a semifinal loss to Middletown in Class 2A last year. Fallston was 22-0 at the time.

The only seniors on the team are starters, with Lori Heffley (11 ppg, five apg) at point guard for the fourth straight year. Center Candy Credito (11.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and forward Jenny Weber (10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) are three-year starters. There is no apparent drop-off with the reserves, as they have accounted for an average of 18 (of the team's 68) points a game.

South Hagerstown senior Beth Henson (16 ppg, seven apg), a 5-7 guard, recently broke the school scoring record and has 1,074 points. Two other standouts are 6-1 junior center Tiffany Jones (17 ppg, 14 rpg) and guard Brooke Russ (12 ppg, 5.5 apg).

Last season, Joppatowne featured four seniors and 6-foot-1 sophomore Brandi Barnes. The Mariners went to the Class 1A final, losing to Easton.

This time, 6-2 junior Barnes (20 ppg, and an area-leading 19 rpg), and senior Erica Adams (17 ppg, eight rpg) are the leaders, backed by senior point guard Lisa Maly and senior forward Keya Atkins.

Southern-Garrett, which lost 53-50 to Joppatowne in the semifinals a year ago, is without a senior and starts three juniors and two sophomores. Emily Friend (15.7 ppg, eight rpg), the team's tallest player at 5-10, is the key player for the Rams.

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