Southern of Garrett streaks by Southside to first title

Defensive stand lifts Rams to 13th win in row, 41-31

Class 1A state girls basketball

High Schools

March 14, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Southern coach Don Stemple said there were two things his Garrett County team needed to do to stop No. 18 Southside in last night's state girls basketball final: keep the Jaguars from scoring in the paint and limit their second chances.

The Rams did both to come away with a 41-31 victory and their first state Class 1A championship at UMBC's RAC Arena. The Western Maryland Interscholastic League champions (23-4) finished the season with a 13-game winning streak.

The Jaguars, who knocked off defending champion Dunbar in the regional final, struggled offensively all night. They shot just 22.8 percent from the field, but it was worse in the first half when they hit only five of 27 shots.

"This was our best defensive effort of the year," said Stemple. "We've had some good defensive games and we pride ourselves on that, but the main thing was this team averaged 58 points a game. Tonight, we held them to 31."

That was the lowest offensive output of the season for the Jaguars (17-7), who came in with four players averaging in double figures. Only Tiffany Lewis got there last night, leading the Jags with 10 points.

The Rams jumped out to an 11-4 lead behind a couple of three-pointers from Justine Pagenhardt and another from Robbin Gregg.

Southside coach Dafne Lee-Blakney said she was more concerned about the Rams' inside game, and with good reason - 5-foot-11 forward Becca Flanagan scored a game-high 18 points and had 12 rebounds.

"I watched them [Friday night] and they're a good shooting team," said Lee-Blakney, "but their inside presence bothered me more. ... That's why we went out in an aggressive 2-3 zone, but the shots were falling for them."

Southside rallied several times, pulling within 23-21 when Patrice Griffin took Rams guard Gregg off the dribble to open the fourth quarter. But as soon as Griffin or Lewis began to penetrate, Southern tightened its defense and pounded the boards, where it had a 52-37 edge.

Free throws from Pagenhardt and Flanagan and a layup from Flanagan boosted the Rams' lead to 27-21 with 6:18 to go. Angela Speight fed Sheree Ledbetter to pull Southside within 27-23, but the Rams got two more baskets inside from Flanagan to increase the lead to eight. The Rams boosted the lead by hitting all six free throws down the stretch.

For the Jaguars, from Cherry Hill in Baltimore City, shooting was a problem from the start. They shot 18.5 percent from the field in the first half. Speight, a 6-1 center, was 3-for-3 in the half, but the rest of the team was 2-for-24 and 0-for-6 from the free-throw line.

"That just happens," said Lewis. "We had an off-game."

For the Jaguars, who are in only their third year as a varsity program, the loss was disappointing even though it was their first trip to the state tournament. However, it was also rewarding for a team that had only nine players on the roster, only one senior and no JV team.

"Nobody expected us to get this far," said Lewis. "We felt like we could win, so we know we can come back and win next year."

SOUTHSIDE-Griffin 5, Lewis 10, Brown 5, Ledbetter 5, Speight 6. Totals: 13 3-14 31. SOUTHERN-G-Pagenhardt 7, S.Scheffel 4, Gregg 7, Flanagan 18, J. Scheffel 3, Brown 2. Totals: 14 10-17 41. Half: SG, 20-10.

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