Centennial frustrates Friendly, 35-33, takes shot at title tomorrow Team defense blankets high-scoring, 24-3 Pats

Class 3A/Girls basketball

March 14, 1997|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Centennial proved again last night that an aggressive defense can take a team a long way.

All the way, in fact, to the Class 3A state final.

The seventh-ranked Eagles, facing a Friendly squad that was averaging 66 points, frustrated the Patriots from the start, controlled the tempo, and held on for a stunning 35-33 victory in a semifinal game at UMBC.

The Eagles (21-5) will face Linganore, a 71-43 winner over 12th-ranked Fallston, at 8 p.m. tomorrow at UMBC. Linganore won the Class 2A state championship last season and is the state's No. 1 ranked girls team.

A lot of things went right for Centennial, winner of 15 straight, against Friendly, ranked No. 5 in the Washington, D.C., area by The Washington Post.

First and foremost was Centennial's tenacious man-to-man defense. The Eagles limited Friendly, which hadn't scored fewer than 60 points in its last 11 games, to seven first-quarter points and 11 by halftime.

"I think our defense frustrated them," said coach Dave Greenberg, who is in his third season at Centennial and is 13-1 in the tournament, including six state titles at Mount Hebron. "The kids did what we asked them to do and played great team defense. That's what this team is all about."

Friendly (24-3) suffered a major blow when its leading scorer, 6-foot-2 senior center Natasha Johnson, left the game for good with 2: 46 left in the first quarter. Johnson, who averages 18 points and 10 rebounds and is headed to St. John's in the fall, suffered a head injury and was not allowed to return by the tournament medical staff.

Greenberg thought the Eagles could get Friendly in foul trouble, and he was right. Junior Andrea Gardner (14 points, 12 rebound average) picked up her fourth foul with 3: 30 left in the second quarter.

Centennial, which led 17-11 at halftime, scored seven straight points -- five by Michelle Kincaid -- for a 24-16 lead with 3: 52 left in the third quarter.

But Centennial missed its next three shots, then turned the ball ++ over four times, as Friendly cut its deficit to 24-23 as the quarter ended.

Friendly took a one-point lead, but baskets by Meredith Price (four points, 10 rebounds), and Kincaid (nine points) made it 28-25 Centennial with just under five minutes.

Two baskets by Shakira Smith gave Friendly a 29-28 lead with 3: 59 remaining. Then O'Connor (nine points) hit her third &r three-point shot, giving Centennial a 31-29 advantage with 3: 24 left.

"I saw an opportunity," said O'Connor of her quickly-taken shot from the left corner. "We needed something to change the momentum."

Kincaid, Icyis Richardson and Alexia Vogler each made one of two free throws as the Eagles took a 34-29 lead with 1: 13 left. "One is better than none," said Greenberg.

The Eagles turned the ball over on their next two possessions, and Friendly made it a one-point game, 34-33, on Gardner's basket with 11 seconds to go.

Friendly fouled Vogler with five seconds left. She made the first shot but missed the second. Gardner rebounded and passed to Smith, whose desperation shot at the buzzer was wide left.

The Eagles got strong performances off the bench from Vogler, Jessica Mentz and Caitlin Ryland. They also out-rebound Friendly.

Linganore 71, Fallston 43: University of Iowa-bound Cara Consuegra had a triple double -- 23 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists -- and Georgetown-bound Mimi Ritter had 16 points to lead the Lancers (27-0) to their 52nd straight victory No. 12 Fallston (21-3) in last night's Class 3A state semifinal at UMBC.

Fallston's Karen Tiedemann finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks before fouling out with 2: 27 left.

Linganore, top-ranked in the state and averaging 81.4 points a game, never trailed.

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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