Practice from line pays off for Hughes, Western, 56-54

Late free throws drop Mervo for championship

High Schools

4A North girls basketball

March 04, 2001|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Western's Jeanell Hughes shot free throws with confidence yesterday, and that made all the difference in the game.

The sophomore forward, who struggled from the foul line in Thursday's semifinal, nailed two free throws with 38.5 seconds left to help the No. 8-ranked Doves clinch a 56-54 victory over No. 17 Mervo for their fifth straight Class 4A North regional girls basketball title.

In the 56-42 semifinal victory at Walbrook, Hughes was visibly frustrated with her free-throw shooting and hit just five of 12. Yesterday, she showed more patience, and it paid off.

"I've been working very hard in practice on my free throws because I know when crunch time comes down, I have to make them," Hughes said. "We were down by one and I knew I had to make both of them. We had to win this game."

The Doves (18-3) advance to meet Suitland in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday at UMBC.

After Hughes gave the host Doves a 55-54 lead yesterday, Rolonda Brown added one more free throw with 12.4 seconds left to seal the victory.

As a team, the Doves shot 17-for-24 from the line, a vast improvement over 21-for-46 Thursday - and they needed every one, because Mervo hit 21 field goals, compared with 18 for Western.

"After the last performance with our free throws, we knew it was going to come down to that," Western coach Dana Johnson said. "I told them, if we had hit those free throws [Thursday] ... it wouldn't have been a contest."

Brown hit five of six free throws in another critical point of the game, late in the third quarter, after Mervo freshman Nell Wilson was called for two technical fouls.

Wilson apparently said something she shouldn't have after fouling Brown in the open court, Mervo coach Nancy Havranek said. Wilson then stepped off the court, picking up a second technical.

Brown's free throws gave the Doves a 45-39 lead, but it didn't last long, as Camella Boyd (18 points) hit two follows and Tobie Ashley nailed a 12-footer to tie.

The teams then traded leads until Hughes' decisive free throws.

The Mustangs (18-4) pushed the Doves the whole game by controlling the tempo. Preferring the slower pace, the Mustangs allowed the Doves to kick in their running game for only a few brief spurts. But while the Mustangs did a good job on the boards, they missed a handful of layups.

Erin Ashley, who scored 16, converted a three-point play to give the Mustangs a 54-53 edge with 2:18 left, but they struggled after three-point ace Tobie Ashley fouled out with 1:29 to go.

"It's really frustrating to continuously put good teams on the floor and not be able to get past Western," said Havranek, whose team lost, 69-53, at Western during the regular season. "This is one of the best teams that Mervo's ever put on the floor, and maybe ever will, and we still can't get past Western. I don't know what it is."

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