Puckett finally solves C.M. Wright

Fallston girls co-coach gets 1st win over Mustangs in basketball in 3 years


High Schools

January 26, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Fallston girls basketball co-coach Alice Puckett didn't get specific about where this one ranked on her coaching ledger, but her actions after the Cougars' 62-56 comeback win over C. Milton Wright on Thursday night likely said enough.

Moments after the final horn, Puckett tucked the game ball under her arm and retreated toward her team's locker room but not before hugging and high-fiving everybody in sight.

In the three-year tenure of Puckett and Vernon Brown, the Cougars had never beaten the Mustangs. Last year, they lost on a shot with 0.8 seconds left.

"That was just devastating," said Puckett, who has led the Cougars' field hockey team to nine state and 15 Harford County titles. "But this year, we really felt with our experience and our leadership, we had an edge."

In the game pitting the last two undefeated teams in the county, Fallston overcame a sloppy start and an 11-point second-half deficit to improve to 10-1 overall and 7-0 in the county. The result was further proof to how comfortable the Cougars have become with the unconventional co-head coaching system.

"We love it," said senior forward Ali Kelly, who scored 13 points on Thursday. "They balance each other very well. After three years, it's really starting to click and the team is responding to it."

In practice, Puckett works with the guards, while Brown, who is also the girls soccer coach, focuses on the post players. The two share similar coaching philosophies. During the game, Brown is the more visible presence pacing the sideline, but Puckett certainly picks her spots.

"If I can sense she is fired up and wants the kids to do something, I just let her go and she can sense when I'm emotional about something. We play off each other very well," said Brown.

When former Cougars coach Nancy Ferguson left for Hereford, Puckett, who had coached the JV team from 1983 to '92 and served as a varsity assistant for the 1992-93 season, wanted to return to the program to coach varsity. She also thought Brown deserved a shot after coaching the JV team for six seasons.

"She was gracious enough to propose the idea and I was definitely for it. I have loads of respect for her," Brown said.

Warriors making splash

The obstacles are many for the Havre de Grace swimming team: The closest pool is nearly 30 minutes away; there is no community feeder program; and the school is small even by Class 1A standards.

However, those things only make what the team is accomplishing this season that much more impressive.

With 14 days left until the county swimming championships, the Havre de Grace boys are 13-0, and the girls are 9-4 heading into Thursday's meet against C. Milton Wright at Edgewood Middle School.

"This is our best boys team, our best girls team and our best team overall," said Aaron Thompson, who coaches the Warriors along with Mark Bonitatibus. "I definitely think this is our best chance to win a county title for the boys."

The boys team finished second in the county championship after an undefeated regular season in 1995-96, but has never won a team title, according to Thompson.

Seniors Britta Nelson, Meghan DiMauro, Jenna Petty, Kat Tag, sophomore Liz Schafer and freshman Shelly Tobin anchor the girls squad. The boys are led by Chris Walters and Kurt LaPaglia, along with sophomores Kyle North, David Tobin, Joe Bringardner and freshman Danny Worrell.

Baum's banner day

Before he takes the mat, Fallston 130-pound senior wrestler Chris Baum doesn't want to know anything about his opponent for fear that he may get psyched out.

Perhaps, that strategy helped him in the finals at the Overlea Invitational on Jan. 18. Facing Dana Gingerich, of Delone Catholic (Pa.), Baum scored a huge triumph.

Gingerich, who was 40-2 last year and the state runner-up, came into the match undefeated and ranked No. 1 in one Pennsylvania ranking.

He had never been pinned in high school until Baum, who was trailing 8-3 in the second period, caught Gingerich in a headlock, took him to the mat and got the pin at the 3:25 mark.

"I really had no clue about him, but I figured the way he was whipping me, he was pretty good," said Baum, a third-place finisher in the states last year at 119. "When a guy is just tearing you apart, the only thing you think about is not getting pinned, so right there, in that instant, when I was pinning him, it was exciting."

Crucial net results

This week's boys basketball schedule will have a huge impact on the county standings. On Tuesday, first-place Aberdeen (8-0) plays host to Fallston, which shares second place with Joppatowne (6-2). On Friday, the Mariners get another shot at Aberdeen, which beat them by seven in mid-December.

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