Aberdeen races past Middletown, 70-58 Eagles build early lead, then hold off Knights

March 09, 1996|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Aberdeen opened the game with some torrid marksmanship, then needed clutch shooting in the waning minutes to hold off a determined Middletown, 70-58, in its Class 2A semifinal last night at Cole Field House.

The Eagles will play Central (23-3) in the final tonight at 6. Central outlasted Southern-AA, 57-50, in the other 2A semifinal.

Although the Eagles made it 18 victories in a row in boosting their record to 23-2, this one did not come easily.

Backed by a 28-point first quarter -- the team's highest-scoring opening quarter of the year -- Aberdeen opened a 28-13 lead, and jumped it to 38-15 with little more than three minutes left in the half.

But the Knights used a 7-0 sprint to close the gap to 43-28 at the half. Aberdeen shot 61 percent (19 for 31) from the floor in the opening 16 minutes. After the break, slowly but surely Middletown climbed back into contention. A basket by Brian Meckley in the lane brought the Frederick County school within nine at the close of the third quarter.

Middletown began the final period, knowing it had been in this situation before, usually with positive results. Coach Tim Leber's team was 11-1 in games decided by fewer than 10 points.

Three times, the margin was just five points, but each time, an Aberdeen player responded. Gabe Neal and James Smith had two-pointers, and Tommie Mims, a junior forward who had an outstanding game, hit a three-pointer off a feed from Smith for 60-52 with 3: 35 to go.

"I thought it was important that we did come out on fire, because it enabled the kids to believe they could win," said Aberdeen coach Ron Petrey.

"Still, Middletown never quit. They kept coming back and we had to make those late free throws to hold them off. They played a great second half.

"At the same time, when my kids had to, they stepped up and sealed the game. I always felt we were never far enough ahead. When they were making their run, especially late, I had the rebounders in there, because it was important that we possess the ball."

Not only did the Eagles shoot well overall (53 percent for the game), but junior point guard James Smith did a superb job of orchestrating the offense and harassing the opposition with his quickness on defense.

Smith was 3-for-3 on three-pointers (the team was 6-for-11), scored 17 points and contributed nine assists. Mims was the high scorer with 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting. he also had 11 rebounds, seven on the offensive end. Overall, the board margin for the winners was 37-27.

For Middletown, the three starters with double-figure scoring averages were there again, as Meckley worked inside for 19 points, Kam Christensen (three threes) had 15 points, and guard Matt Main 11.

Aberdeen began as though it would run Middletown out of the building. Three players helped get a 7-0 lead. It was 15-4 halfway through the quarter, and with the help of three three-pointers in ,, the closing minutes (two by Smith, one by Stevens), it was 28-13.

The Eagles were relentless for most of the second quarter, twice piling up 23-point margins with their run-oriented offense and aggressive rebounding, especially at the defensive end.

Middletown came alive in the last two minutes, going on a 9-1 spree. Five players did the damage with four baskets and a foul shot.

MIDDLETOWN -- Christensen 15, Halse 8, Meckley 19, Matt Main 11, Mike Main 4, Tobery 1. Totals: 25 4-10 58.

ABERDEEN -- Stevens 9, Mims 21, Neal 10, Vesely 7, Smith 17, Henderson 2, Sterrette 4. Totals: 28 8-15 70. Halftime: Aberdeen, 43-28

Pub Date: 3/09/96

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