Liberty done in by turnovers in 2A state semifinal

Gwynn Park turns up the pressure, beats Lions, 64-51

March 12, 2010|By Jeff Seidel | Special to The Baltimore Sun

For most of the game, the Liberty girls basketball team refused to let Gwynn Park pull away. In the end, however, the Lions gave it away.

The Lions weren't used to dealing with the smothering defensive pressure applied by the Yellow Jackets, as they committed 31 turnovers en route to a 64-51 loss in a Class 2A state semifinal Friday at UMBC's RAC Arena.

Liberty (21-6), making its first state semifinal appearance since 1983, stayed close until the final five minutes, when the Prince George's County team forced eight turnovers.

Gwynn Park (21-3) will meet Fallston in the 2A state championship Saturday at 1 p.m. The Cougars upset No. 3 Digital Harbor, 42-31, in the other 2A semifinal Friday.

Ciara Washington (16 points) led Gwynn Park, which scored 27 of its points off turnovers, repeatedly stopping Liberty runs throughout the game. The Yellow Jackets constantly pressed, trapped and rarely gave the Lions breathing room.

"They were one of the most aggressive teams we've seen all season," Liberty's Maggie McCormick said. "Whenever we got the ball, we were swarmed."

McCormick and Shelby Nemecek each scored 16 points to lead the Lions. Nemecek added 19 rebounds, as Liberty held a 51-40 edge on the boards. But the miscues proved costly -- especially late in the game.

The Lions never led after the early minutes but they remained within striking distance, pulling to 48-44 when Rebeka Coughlin made two free throws with 5:04 left. But Gwynn Park forced four straight turnovers that led to eight straight points in the next 45 seconds, starting a 16-2 run that sealed the victory.

Liberty went without a basket for 4:25 during the fourth quarter and lost Coughlin when she fouled out midway through the final period, which Lions coach Jessica Morgan said was the game's turning point. Coughlin's good drives and passes gave Liberty a spark that it couldn't find without her.

"The girls were ready for the [pressure defense]; they knew it was coming," Morgan said. "These guys play their best when they're nice and loose and having fun. We came in a little tense tonight."

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