Harlee leads Fallston girls to second straight state title

Senior forward has 18 points, 19 rebounds in Cougars' Class 2A champioship win

March 13, 2010|By Katherine Dunn | katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

Duplicating the magic of last season's 28-0 season seemed impossible for Fallston's girls basketball team after All-Metro forward Jess Harlee tore a knee ligament in August. When Harlee returned to the court in early February, however, she did exactly what she did last year -- lead the Cougars to an unbeaten stretch and the state crown.

Harlee scored 18 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and hit six free throws in the final 42 seconds to lead the Cougars (20-5) to a 58-53 victory over Gwynn Park for the Class 2A title Saturday at UMBC's RAC Arena.

In a game much like last year's victory over Paint Branch in the 3A final, the game stayed close until late. Neither team led by more than five until the final 31 seconds.

"The game mirrored last year's game so much," Fallston coach Mike McTeague said. "It just brings out my amazement watching them play, how well they handle adversity, how they respond. They don't really play with fear. They don't play to not lose, they play to win."

For Harlee, who thought she might miss the entire season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, the second title was especially appreciated.

"It's awesome. There's no other word for it," said Harlee, whose team is 37-0 over the last two seasons with her in the lineup. "When I started my high school career, I never thought I'd be here three times at UMBC. I have great teammates around me and that's why we won, because we play as a team."

While that's true, it sure helps to have a cornerstone who can do all the things that Harlee can. Along with her points and rebounds, she hit 12 of 16 free throws, had five assists and five steals. But many of her contributions don't show up in the box score. She took two charges and stifled the Yellow Jackets' potent perimeter game by playing at the top of the Cougars' 1-2-2 zone -- assistant coach Jess Comley's idea to help keep Harlee in the game with three fouls.

With the Yellow Jackets (21-4) leading 46-45 with 3:51 to go, Rachael Holehouse and McKenzie Hannahs hit free throws to give Fallston the lead for good at 50-46. Harlee later fed Lindsay Garnett for the last of her 17 points, a 12-foot jumper, and then hit six of eight free throws to seal the win.

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