25-1 Middletown avenges only loss, throws away Key Knights' hot shooting keeps Carroll club at bay

Girls basketball

March 07, 1998|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

For Middletown, the crusade goes on. The Knights (25-1), regional final losers the past two years, were not about to let it happen again.

Having Francis Scott Key for a title-round foe this time made it all the sweeter, and the Frederick County visitors rode some red-hot shooting (better than 50 percent from the floor and 20-27 on free throws) into the state tournament with a 73-64 conquest in the Class 2A West championship game.

Middletown, whose only loss so far was to Key three weeks ago, moved on to next week's tournament at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where it will play a semifinal Friday afternoon against Southern-Anne Arundel.

Last night's game was seemingly over several times, but Key (16-7) kept finding ways to wiggle back into contention.

Middletown finally put an end to that stubbornness with a 9-0 scoring spree in less than two minutes early in the last quarter. Key, which had come back from a 45-29 deficit two minutes into the second half, was within 56-51 when the roof finally caved in for good.

Liz Shannon, in the midst of a career-high 27-point effort to go with nine assists and five steals, bagged two from just inside the arc. A technical foul against Key -- "The official said one of my girls kicked a player, but I know she didn't," coach Alice Smith said later -- triggered a seven-point run.

In the process, the count climbed to 66-53, with junior Melissa Merson picking up the Key basket. From there, the Knights' last seven points came at the line.

Merson topped Key in scoring with 15.

Shannon, a 5-foot-4 senior guard who also had played in those two previous final-round losses, is tough on offense and a strong defender who goes for the steals. She simply refused to let her team lose.

"I usually don't take that many shots," she said of a 7-for-14 effort that included two of her side's three treys.

"Our experience paid off," said Knights coach Mark Miller. "Tonight, we were knocking down the perimeter shots, and that opened things inside. The difference [from the earlier loss] was this time our perimeter shots fell, enabling us to do some things inside."

Smith said that Audra Frizzell "was the difference. She played hard and made a lot of shots [against a zone defense], and that's why Shannon was open. You can't stop a team when they're making every shot."

Pub Date: 3/07/98

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