Hammond sinks Fallston for title, 57-51 2A GIRLS BASKETBALL

March 12, 1995|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

All the pressure on No. 2 Hammond to repeat as state champs exploded in one Tiki Nicholson shot yesterday.

And Nicholson made it a shot to remember.

The senior guard fired up a stumbling, sideways skyrocket from 35 feet away. When it dropped through the hoop for a six-point lead with 55 seconds to go, Nicholson stood at midcourt with her arms raised in the air.

The Golden Bears (23-3) would be state champs again -- for the third time in four years.

Hammond needed a spectacular play to finally shake No. 4 Fallston and take a 57-51 victory in the Class 2A title game at UMBC.

Fallston, also making its fourth consecutive state tournament appearance, battled Hammond right down to the wire. The Cougars (22-2) never fell behind by more than four points in the second half until the final two minutes.

With 1:30 left, Candy Credito's off-balance follow shot seemed like the lucky shot of the day. It popped off the rim, up to the top of the board and straight down through the net cutting Hammond's lead to 52-49.

At the other end, the Bears couldn't get a good shot against Fallston's busy zone, forcing Nicholson to launch her 35-footer with one second left on the 30-second shot clock.

"When that falls, you know it's not meant to be," said Fallston coach Nancy Ferguson.

Nicholson also had a pretty good idea that the Cougars could not rebound from that emotional three-point blow.

"That's why I froze," said Nicholson. "It shocked me and I just threw my hands up. I've never made a shot like that since I've been playing -- never."

But the game wasn't quite over. Fallston's Jenny Weber hit a follow shot to cut the margin to 55-51, but Nicholson had an answer for that, too. She took Tina Wilmer's pass, sliced around a defender and hit a layup falling down.

On a day when several of her teammates struggled, Nicholson finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three assists.

The Bears also got a strong inside game from Kellye Townsend (14 points, 12 rebounds) and 6-foot-1 Rene Hines (11 points, 14 rebounds). Nicholson hit Townsend twice on the break and Tameka Harrison fed Hines once in a 6-2 run that boosted Hammond's lead to 52-47 with 1:42 left.

"Kellye just played so good," said Hammond coach Joe Russo. "She got a lot of rebounds and that was so important for us. They were tripling the rebound and if we had a weak girl getting that rebound in there, we would have been in trouble, but Kellye is so strong."

Townsend and Hines had to do battle with Credito, a 6-1 senior, who finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Only one other Cougar finished in double figures, forward Rachel Simon with 10.

For the Bears, the celebration was huge.

While they were happy and excited, the overriding emotion was relief, especially for seniors Nicholson and Harrison, the only Hammond players to be part of all three title teams.

"It's wonderful, and I'm relieved that it's over with," said Harrison. "This was our last goal. Once we got past this, all the pressure had to be gone."

Russo agreed, "There was so much pressure on these kids to repeat. Everybody thought they were going to be champions, but it's real hard to win the state championship two years in a row.

"There's a lot of things that can go wrong," Russo said. "Everybody plays harder when they play us. It's been that way all season."

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