Slow start leaves Arundel too far behind in title chase Wildcats miss first 11 shots in falling to Suitland, 66-61

Class 4A girls basketball

March 15, 1998|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

It took the Class 4A state championship game for the Arundel Wildcats to finally find their match.

Suitland brought its own pair of outstanding guards to UMBC yesterday afternoon with a strong inside game as well. With a jittery first half for the No. 5-ranked Wildcats slightly overshadowing an incredible second-half performance, they came up a little short in their bid for a second state title in three years, falling to the Rams from Prince George's County, 66-61.

Arundel senior guard Sherice Proctor closed out a brilliant four-year career with a game-high 30 points, including 24 in the second half, but the Rams (24-2) hit their free throws in the final minutes and had just enough answers to fend off the Wildcats as they won the school's first-ever state girls basketball title.

The Wildcats, Anne Arundel County and East Region champs, finished their season 24-4.

"I'm happy about our season. I'm disappointed we didn't win it all, but here we were, playing on the last day," said Proctor, who leaves Arundel as the Wildcats' all-time scoring leader.

The usual question for any given Arundel opponent was whether they had gone up against a guard tandem as solid as Proctor and junior Meagan Rollins this season. Yesterday, the question was answered by Suitland's senior backcourt of Sharron Francis and LaShay Makal, who combined for 37 points, eight steals and nine assists to offset the Wildcats' pair.

Add the inside play of Suitland junior forward Candice Phelps, who scored 17 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, along with junior center Christina Strother (10 rebounds) and you have what separated the two teams yesterday.

"Our big people stepped up," said Makal. "They had shooters and we had shooters. But we also had the big people and that was the difference. They really stepped up for us."

And what about those Suitland guards?

"In our county, Angie Creek and Dena Eldridge from Meade played physical and were able to stay with us sometimes," said Rollins, who finished with 15 points, four steals and three assists. "In Prince George's County, they play a lot different, a lot like us. [Francis and Makal] were able to run with us and usually teams can't run with us."

The Wildcats came out nervous, missing on their first 11 shots from the field before Rollins hit a runner with 1: 03 left in the first quarter. With the Suitland guards handling the Arundel pressure and its forwards taking care of the boards, the Rams forced the Wildcats into a half-court game for the entire first half and took a 29-19 lead at the break.

"We stood around a lot in the first half and that's something we need to work on for next season. When we're running up and down the floor, we play much better," said Arundel coach Lee Rogers. "When it's a physical game inside, it's tough on us and that's what it was today. [Suitland's] big girls jumped well and we couldn't keep them off the glass."

It was Proctor and Rollins who led the second-half rally.

The two scored all of the Wildcats' 20 points in the third quarter -- combining to hit three three-pointers and getting penetration inside -- to cut the Rams' lead to 44-39 before Suitland' Ebony Hollingsworth closed out the quarter with a basket inside.

With 2: 36 left in the game, Rollins found Proctor with a long outlet for an easy basket to cut the lead to 56-54, but Suitland, making its first state playoff appearance, didn't crumble.

Makal answered with two free throws on the Rams' next possession, then followed with a jumper. Francis then connected on two free throws to push the lead up to 62-54 with 1: 09 left. The Wildcats never got any closer than five the rest of the way.

"I don't think we came ready to play from the start, but we didn't quit and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end," Rogers

said. "We didn't quite get it done, but I'm proud of them. Suitland is a good ballclub. They hit their free throws and did the job."

Said Rollins: "It's really frustrating to come so far and lose by a couple of points. I wish the game would have lasted another five minutes."

SUITLAND -- Makal 22, Phelps 17, Francis 15, Marable 4, Strother 4, Hollingsworth 2, Simmons 2. Totals 24 17-26 66.

ARUNDEL -- Proctor 30, Rollins 15, Marano 9, Schiecz 2, Fauntleroy 2, Pucci 2, Edmonds 1. Totals 20 17-22 61. Half: S, 29-19.

Pub Date: 3/15/98

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