Throughout the Class 4A East region semifinal last night at Arundel, it was obvious the host team was plenty accustomed to winning this time of year while young Glen Burnie was still getting used to the idea.
The No. 6-ranked Wildcats, who have reached the state tournament in three of the previous five seasons, winning it all in 1996, moved within one game of a fourth appearance by overwhelming the talented, but overmatched Gophers, 88-65, in Gambrills.
Arundel (22-2) will next play host to Severna Park -- a 62-32 winner over C. Milton Wright in last night's other semifinal -- at 7 p.m. tomorrow for the region title.
Arundel has taken two of three from the No. 8 Falcons so far this season, including last week's 56-47 win in the county championship game.
Against No. 17 Glen Burnie, which closed out a breakthrough season with a 19-5 mark, the Wildcats had too much experience, too much depth and too many options.
They ran, with junior guard Jill Marano (23 points) leading the way. They went inside, where junior Najmah Fauntleroy poured in 19 more while controlling the boards; and they defended, forcing 24 Glen Burnie turnovers.
"Arundel can throw so much at you," said Glen Burnie assistant coach Dan Mangum, who was replacing head coach Vickie Plitt after she was suspended a game for technical fouls in the Gophers' quarterfinal win on Monday.
"They have seven or eight players who can start for any team. They do a lot of good things and are well-coached. They're the best team we've seen all season."
The Wildcats came out fast with aggressive defense and six straight points from Marano helping provide a 9-0 lead.
The Gophers got back into the game with the help of four three-pointers in the first half -- closing within 28-24 with 4: 33 left until intermission. But they ran into foul trouble and were worn down by the Arundel pressure in the second half.
By game's end, which ended 1: 14 early because of a power outage, the Wildcats had 10 players score and another trip to UMBC closer in sight. A rematch against their county rival from Severna Park comes first.
"I guess experience took its toll in this ballgame. We came out aggressive and played hard throughout," said Arundel coach Lee Rogers, whose Wildcats escaped with a 62-59 win at home against Glen Burnie in the regular season.
"[Tomorrow] we'll have to play twice as hard as we did the last time because Severna Park is hungry. My kids are, too. But I have to get them even hungrier."
Freshman guard Jessica Collins added 14 point for the Wildcats, who got another solid defensive performance from senior guard Keyana Washington.
The Gophers got 20 points from Shanique Skinner and 14 apiece from Kellie Werner and Jen DeWitt.
"I'm proud of my kids. At 19-5, we've come a long way in two years. We have a lot of young kids that will be back, but I feel bad for the seniors. They took the bull by the horns and started our progress," said Mangum.