N. Carroll yawns, then rises, 56-51, over Liberty

Sluggish No. 19 Panthers earn first county title outright after 11 a.m. start

Girls basketball

February 20, 2000|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

As long as North Carroll doesn't schedule a morning game, the Panthers should do all right in the Class 3A North regional girls basketball tournament next week.

Powered by the big three of senior guard Heather Easter, senior forward Candice Jeffrey, and junior forward Becky Wike, No. 19 North Carroll shook off the effects of an 11 a.m. start and nipped host Liberty, 56-51, in Eldersburg yesterday.

Jeffrey scored a team-high 16 points, and Wike and Easter chipped in 14 and 13, respectively, to propel the Panthers (18-4, 11-3 in the Central Maryland Conference) to their first outright county championship and a share of the conference title.

"This gives us a good head start," said Jeffrey, who broke 1990 alumna Lisa Garland's 887 career points with her 12th point at the 5: 07 mark of the third quarter. "It gives us a lot of energy and momentum heading into the tournament."

North Carroll shot better than 50 percent from the floor (23-for-42) to help erase a nine-point first-quarter deficit.

"I think the day off [Friday] and the Saturday morning affected us," said Wike, who grabbed 10 rebounds. "I don't think we're a morning team."

Liberty (11-11, 6-8) took advantage of the Panthers' lethargic start, scoring the game's first eight points and forcing North Carroll into committing nine turnovers.

The Panthers roared back in the second quarter, connecting on nine of 15 shots and outscoring the Lions 22-10 to take a 32-29 lead at the half.

Trailing 48-42 with six minutes left in the final quarter, Liberty scored seven unanswered points -- the last coming on a jumper by senior guard Michelle Allen (a game-high 17 points and seven assists) -- to regain the lead.

But North Carroll went inside, finding Jeffrey and Wike for three layups to seal the win.

The Panthers, who likely will earn one of the top four seeds in today's draw at Blake High School in Montgomery County, became the first county team since the 1989-90 South Carroll squad to win the conference title.

"It's one of the best accomplishments we've had," Easter said. "It's a great way to end the [regular] season."

North Carroll earned a share of the conference championship with Frederick and either Linganore or Urbana, which battled for the third spot in the three-way tie yesterday.

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