Thanks to some late-game heroics by freshmen Katrina Zelenka and Kerri Poisal and a last-second free throw by senior Leah Sawyer, Mount de Sales will get a shot at No. 1 Seton Keough nine days earlier than planned.
The Sailors (6-5) edged St. Paul's, 43-42, in overtime last night at the Comet Christmas Classic at Catonsville High School. Their reward -- a second-round meeting with defending Classic champ Seton Keough at 6: 30 tonight.
They are scheduled to play the first of two Catholic League games at UMBC on Jan. 5, but Sawyer said the Sailors are ready for tonight.
"I can't wait," said Sawyer, a 6-foot-2 center. "They're absolutely our biggest rival and we love playing them. We always want to get them."
Last night, Sawyer hit the second of two free throws with 3.4 seconds remaining to complete a sensational comeback for the Sailors, who had trailed by 10 points with three minutes to go.
Poisal, a 5-4 guard, hit two three-pointers in the final 36 seconds to cap a 10-point rally that tied the game at 35 with 17 seconds remaining.
In overtime, it was Zelenka's turn. A 5-8 forward, she hit a short jumper with 56 seconds left for a 41-40 Sailors lead and then answered Francoise Gordon's layup by making a move around Micah Cunningham for a layup and a 42-41 lead.
Zelenka, who had 14 points, scored five of the Sailors' eight points in overtime.
However, the Gators weren't finished. Samantha Murray hit the first of two free throws to tie at 42. But Sawyer, who had gone 2-for-6 from the line earlier in overtime, made her final free throw count.
"I'm usually better [from the line] under pressure," said Sawyer, who had 14 points and 19 rebounds. "Sometimes I'm really on and I hit all of them and sometimes I don't. Tonight I was just off."
She wasn't alone. The Sailors might have sewn it up sooner had they shot better than 9-for-29 from the free-throw line.
For the Gators (3-4), the biggest problems came early when they spotted the Sailors a 7-0 lead and didn't hit a basket until the final 18 seconds of the first quarter.
Still, they managed to climb back and took their first lead, 23-22, when Sarah Cook assisted Gordon for a layup with 58 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
That was the second basket in what proved to be a 16-4 Gators run over 6 1/2 minutes. An eight-point run, sparked by a 1-2-2 press that forced eight Sailors turnovers, helped the Gators run their lead to 33-23 on Laura Peace's short jumper.
But the Gators could not hold on. They rushed passes and shots even through they still had a six-point lead going into the final 40 seconds.
"We have these spurts of greatness and then we have those mental lapses and we let them back in the game," Gators coach Suzie Friedrich said.
The Gators will face Mount de Sales' 'B' team at 4: 45 p.m. today. The Sailors' 'B' team was a last-minute fill-in when Catonsville coach Mike Mohler needed a sixth team for the tournament.
Last night, Catonsville (3-3) defeated Mount de Sales 'B,' 43-27, to earn a meeting with No. 15 Howard at 8: 15 tonight. Tina Tacka scored 11 for the Comets.
Pub Date: 12/27/96