Richard Montgomery made its first state tournamen appearance a stunning success, as it took charge in the third quarter and went on to a 50-34 victory over previously unbeaten and No. 4-ranked C. Milton Wright.
With its 16th straight victory, Richard Montgomery (23-3) advances to tomorrow's Class 3A final against Frederick Douglass, at UMBC Fieldhouse at 8 p.m.
It was Wright's first loss of the season, ending a winning streak of 22 in a row. The Mustangs and Class 2A Linganore (23-0) were the only unbeaten teams entering the semifinals.
Kate Thirolf, a 5-foot-10 Richard Montgomery senior, and Erin Updegrove, a 5-foot-8 Wright senior, each the all-time scoring leader for her respective school with more than 1,400 points, struggled through the first half, but Thirolf got her game on track in the third quarter.
She scored eight points, including the baskets that gave the Rockets a tie at 28 and the lead for good at 30-28, with three minutes gone in the quarter. As it developed, those two shots triggered a 22-point run, and a two-point deficit became a 48-28 lead over the next 10 minutes.
Miranda James finally stopped the carnage on a short shot with 4: 08 to go. By then, it was much too little and way too late for the Harford County champions.
"We were nervous in the first half, but I felt if we could relax and start running, we'd take over eventually," said Richard Montgomery coach Watson Prather.
Thirolf had 10 points in the run, and finished with 20 (9-for-16 from the field) and 11 rebounds. She got help from Koshia Phillips, who had been injured in an earlier game, but came off the bench to contribute 10 points.
"What can I say? They came out with more intensity at the start of the second half, and played well in transition," said Wright coach Gloria Liedlich, who watched her team lose in the semifinals for a second straight year.
It is no secret the Mustangs need Updegrove and James to play well, and with both having subpar showings, it made for a long game.
It was particularly galling for Updegrove, a three-year starter who has played in every one of her team's games for four years.
She had led the team with averages of 19.7 points and 9.2 rebounds. She ended with nine points, ending a double-digit scoring streak at 52 games.
L Betsy Blom, a 6-foot-2 junior, led the team with 12 points.
Still, it was a collective loss, because, as Liedlich said, "You can't get to the state tournament and then miss as many layups and short shots as we did."
Turnovers and missed shots were the order in the first half.
The widest spread was six points on three different occasions, before the Rockets closed to within 24-22 at the half.
Pub Date: 03/08/96