F.S. Key and Middletown will start tonight all even 2A West foes have beaten each other during season

March 06, 1998|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

For the second time in three nights, Francis Scott Key (16-6) will get a chance to show just how far it has come with what is basically a young team when it is home (7 p.m.) against Middletown (24-1) in a Class 2A West regional championship game tonight.

In the midst of what looked like an unbeaten season, Middletown defeated Key at home in mid-January, 56-38, but Key, making dramatic improvement, shocked the visiting Knights a month later, 51-45.

Earlier this week, Key built a big lead, then held off Walkersville, 63-60, in a semifinal matchup. During the regular season, Key had lost at the Frederick County school in December, 44-35, and won at home in late January, 47-44.

Jessica Matos (44 points in two playoff games), Key's lone senior regular who finished second in Carroll County in scoring (12.0) and third in rebounding (7.8), leads the Eagles. She is joined in the starting lineup by juniors Sindi Stem, Melissa Merson and Jessie Suter, and sophomore Jen Sawyer, a 5-foot-7 guard coach Alice Smith considers her steadiest player.

Matos and Stem were regulars on last year's 25-3 entry that won the state Class 1A championship, and it is Stem who sets the tone on offense and defense. A tenacious 5-5 guard who plays with enthusiasm, she shrugged off a four-inch gash on one knee (a player caught the skin with her fingernail) after the win over Walkersville.

"I told coach I had to come out because I had blood running down my leg, but they taped it up and I went right back," she said. "I don't like being out of the game -- I've played with sprains, a broken toe, lots of things -- and you don't notice them. You play through it."

After Middletown had rebounded from the Key loss to whip a solid Brunswick team, 57-50, coach Mark Miller said, "We battled and scratched our way through. We didn't do that against Key. We're not a great team but we play hard."

With everybody back from last year's losing West regional finalist (winner Wheaton, now in 3A, went on to the state championship), what this Middletown team has is experience (44-6 for two years).

What it does best is play in-your-face defense and force turnovers. There is not a lot of height, but the players have quickness and are good athletes.

After a 57-28 quarterfinal loss to Middletown, Bethesda-Chevy Chase coach John Zehner said, "They took the ball away before we could get into our offense."

The Knights marched into their third successive title game by whipping Urbana Wednesday night, 61-49, a victory set up by a 14-3 third-quarter run.

The team features balanced scoring among three starters, and much of the offense starts with point guard Lisa Shannon, who has played in regional final losses the last two years. Against Urbana, Shannon directed an emotional triumph with nine assists to go with 13 points.

Next week's state semifinals at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, on Friday afternoon, will pair the Potomac-Long Reach winner against the North Harford-Towson winner, and the Key-Middletown winner against the Poly-Southern-AA winner.

The championship game will be at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Pub Date: 3/05/98

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