Top-ranked Arundel turns back South River, 41-37

Wildcats dig deep to top S. River a 4th time, clinch trip to 7th state semifinals

Class 4A East girls basketball

March 06, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

It was far from a typical win for the top-ranked Arundel girls basketball team last night.

But when you play a good team like No. 12 South River for the fourth time and have to beat it a fourth time or go home, you'll take it any way it comes.

So there was junior point guard Ana Baker, the Wildcats' smallest starter at 5 feet 6, swatting away two shots. And there was 6-foot junior forward Janae Butler stepping out in the fourth quarter and hitting a rare three-pointer from the left corner.

Relying on their sticky defense, and getting key contributions from unlikely sources, the visiting Wildcats overcame a poor shooting performance and a determined Seahawks team to come away with a 41-37 win, securing their seventh Class 4A East region championship.

The Wildcats (23-2) will chase after their third state title starting at 3 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals against either C.H. Flowers or Oxon Hill at UMBC.

First, they'll take a collective deep breath after last night's close call.

"Tonight's game was a lot about defense, and that's what wins championships," said Baker, who had four points and handed out seven assists. "Our offense wasn't there, but we were able to pick it [up] on defense. Everybody has off nights and we know we'll be able to bring it back next game."

The Wildcats shot only 31 percent from the field and 43 percent from the free-throw line (6-for-14), and standout guard Alex McGuire, who averaged 27 points in their three previous wins against South River, was limited to just 14 points.

But freshman guard Brittany Watts came up with two assists, a steal and a layup in the second quarter, Butler pulled down 10 rebounds to go with her 11 points and, when the Seahawks cut the lead to 39-37 on a steal and lay-in from junior guard Rachel Fry with 37 seconds left, Watts was able to find Butler inside with 15 seconds left for the final margin.

"Our field goal percentage wasn't up," said Butler. "We usually shoot better than that, but we knew they couldn't match our intensity level, so we just kept playing the good defense and made sure to box out and go after the ball," said Butler.

After losing to Arundel by 18 in the Anne Arundel County championship game two weeks ago and by 27 a week earlier during the regular season, the Seahawks almost found a way to break through, with senior forward Lindsay Sheppard scoring five of her team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter.

"My girls have no reason to hang their heads - they played a wonderful ball game," said South River coach Chiara Lee, whose Seahawks ended their season with a 21-5 mark. "Arundel doesn't get rattled a lot of times. They don't go with the excitement. They stay focused, which is good."

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