Unbeaten Wright is too tall for Fallston James, Nimmo and Blom lead Mustangs to third win over Cougars, 63-51

Girls basketball

March 02, 1996|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Fallston coach Nancy Ferguson seemed to have few options in last night's Class 3A, North Region championship game.

It mattered not if the Cougars' coach switched strategies, swapped personnel or put on the full-court press. Without a magical potion to make her players grow, Ferguson had no choice but to watch her team drop its third game of the season to undefeated Harford County rival C. Milton Wright.

Guard Miranda James scored a game-high 22 points, and the fourth-ranked Mustangs held host No. 6 Fallston to 16 percent shooting over the final 12 minutes en route to a 63-51 win.

C. Milton Wright (22-0) advances to the state Class 3A semifinals Thursday at UMBC, where it will face an opponent to be determined, at 9 p.m.

It will mark the Mustangs' second straight trip to the states. Last year, they lost to Walt Whitman in the semis, but with a year's more experience and confidence to spare, this time around could be a different story.

Last night, it was their superior height inside that made the difference. Led in the paint by 6-foot-3 Nicole Nimmo (nine points) and 6-0 Betsy Blom (eight), the Mustangs forced Fallston's offense to the perimeter, where it misfired on 25 of its final 30 shots. Wright out-rebounded the losers, 29-18, in the second half.

"Height was really a factor," said Ferguson, whose team had lost to the Mustangs by four and one points in two regular-season games. "Defensively, they had hurt us inside before, so you just hope we can hit our shots from outside."

While Fallston (16-3) was missing, Wright was pulling away. James was nearly unstoppable from 15 feet out, keying her team's offense with 16 points in the first 19 minutes.

"I just said, 'Give me the ball,' " said James, who entered the night averaging 13 points. "The skip pass was open all night, and I was just making all my shots."

Trailing 14-10, the Mustangs outscored the Cougars 11-2 over the next 5:25 to take a 21-16 lead with just over four minutes left in the half.

Mustangs leading scorer Erin Updegrove (15 points) came alive during the spurt, scoring eight points in eight minutes after getting blanked in the first quarter.

Wright extended its lead to 27-20 on Nimmo's putback with 1:42 left in the half before going into the break leading 29-24.

The lead continued to grow throughout the second half, opening to 11 on Nimmo's foul shot near the end of the third, and as !! many as 15 down the stretch.

"We wanted our kids to take jump shots because we knew if

they missed we had the height to crash the boards," said Mustangs coach Gloria Liedlich. She said the fact that the regional final came down to a long-standing county rivalry was something to be proud about.

"We're happy that it boiled down to a Harford County school getting down there [to UMBC]," she said. "We just respect Fallston so much. I think that maybe what this will do is build our confidence. We're happy to be going down there, but we want to see it continue."

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