Catonsville falls short against DuVal, 58-36

Onuaku's inside presence is too much for Comets

Girls Class 2A semifinals

High school basketball

March 09, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Catonsville's girls basketball team had one big problem in yesterday's Class 2A state semifinal - DuVal's Ifeome Onuaku.

The 6-foot-2 senior center scored 24 points and grabbed 24 rebounds, controlling the paint and leading the Tigers to a 58-36 victory over the No. 8 Comets at UMBC.

The Tigers (20-5) of Prince George's County are now one step away from making state tournament history. If they can get past No. 11 Hammond in today's 1 p.m. final at UMBC, they would become the only program in the 30-year history of the state girls tournament to win seven titles.

Three teams have won six - the Tigers, Mount Hebron and Brooklyn Park. The Tigers, ranked No. 20 in The Washington Post, last won back-to-back Class 3A crowns in 1999 and 2000.

Yesterday, the Comets, who last appeared in the state tournament in 1996 and have never won a title, could not counter that tradition, especially when it came with Onuaku in the middle.

Onuaku, who proved dominant on the offensive boards, hit 10 of 16 shots and scored seven points in a game-opening 11-0 run, a margin the Comets never managed to close.

"She had a good six inches on me," said Comets forward Carly Wasserbach, who drew the tough defensive assignment. "We knew we were pretty well matched up with everyone except for that one big girl. We knew most of her points came on put-backs, because she was so tall, she'd get the rebound. It's hard when you have a 5-foot-8 girl, me, guarding a 6-foot-2 center."

The trouble started for the Comets (21-6) right away. They missed their first nine shots as the Tigers ran up an 11-0 lead. Catonsville managed to cut the deficit to five late in the second half, but it mostly hovered around 11 until the fourth quarter.

Late in the third quarter, the Comets had some good looks at the basket and a chance to close the gap, but they missed their final eight shots of the period. Settling for three free throws in the last 2:51, the Comets still trailed by 11.

"A couple times, we just couldn't get over the hump," said Comets coach Mike Mohler. "It was just one or two shots and you were, `Please go in, please go in and get us started,' but it just wouldn't."

The Tigers, however, got back-to-back three-pointers from Summer Graves to open the fourth. That pushed the lead to 43-26 and they kept right on going. By the 2:31 mark, they were up 53-32.

Mohler tried to clamp down on Onuaku with a zone defense, but it didn't stop her from scoring 14 second-half points.

"We don't play a lot of zone," said Mohler, "so trying to put it in and expect great execution is probably not going to happen. Then we said let them shoot it and the one girl [Graves] showed us she could shoot it."

All game long, the Comets struggled with their offense, even though they often controlled the tempo and didn't get into much of a running game against a DuVal defense that has allowed an average of only 39 points. This was the 11th time this season that the Tigers have held an opponent under 40 points.

Catonsville, which saw many of its good shots rim out, shot 19.6 percent, shooting just 9-for-46. From three-point range, the Comets, who had hit as many as 17 three-pointers in a game this season, were 2-for-19.

Ashley Liggett led the Comets with 10 points, while Wasserbach and Andrea Denton scored eight each.

DUVAL-Whitmore 5, Hamilton 6, Graves 13, Onuaku 24, Johnson 2, Thomas 8. Totals 22 10-20 58. CATONSVILLE-S.Wasserbach 5, Kelly 2, Clipp 3, Denton 8, C. Wasserbach 8, Liggett 10. Totals 9 16-22 36. Half: D, 22-15.

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