Two of Harford County's most successful girls basketball teams in recent years, Fallston and Joppatowne, met on the court Monday night as the region playoffs moved into the quarterfinals.
In a see-saw game featuring scoring runs by both teams, host Joppatowne was able to slip away with a 55-53 win over the Cougars in a Class 2A East, District VII sectional contest.
Aberdeen and C. Milton Wright also won region games Monday in 3A North action and Patterson Mill won in 2A East play.
In Joppatowne's win, the Mariners came out of the gate hot from the outside for an early 6-2 lead, but a patient, yet persistent, Fallston club, stayed close and on a pair of Alyssa March free throws, took a 15-14 lead. An Emily Nosek jumper boosted the Cougars to a 17-14 lead after one quarter.
Fallston pushed its lead to 23-17. But three minutes into the second quarter, point guard/small forward Rachael Holehouse, Fallston's star, was whistled for her third foul.
"We made critical mistakes at critcal times," Cougars head coach Mike McTeague said. "Really, we had a six-point lead in the first half and Holehouse gets her third foul, which wasn't the smartest foul, so that hurt us to have to take your point guard out. The mistakes we made were really badly timed. I'm proud of the effort."
With her on the bench, Joppatowne reeled off seven straight points, all by Lakiah Huff. Four points came off steals, sandwiching a three-point shot, one of three in the game for Huff.
Huff's run gave the Mariners the lead, 24-23, but the Cougars battled back with baskets from March and Nosek to retake the lead. Shakara Head, who was limited to two first half points on 2-of-4 free throw shooting, added her second. Fallston led, 27-25, at the break.
Joppatowne went right to Head to open the third quarter and her four points were part of a 10-0 Mariners run that gave Joppatowne a 35-27 lead.
Fallston answered with a 6-0 spurt to close to within two, 35-33, but Joppatowne was up to the task as Te'jha Patton-Hill's somewhat of a circus-shot, three-point play and Huff's final three-pointer gave the Mariners a 6-0 run to close the quarter with a 41-33 lead.
The Mariners appeared to be on their way to the win with a quick burst to open the fourth quarter that pushed the lead to double digits, 48-37.
The Cougars, however, had other ideas. Holehouse scored five points in a 9-0 Cougar run to get her team to within two, 48-46, but Joppatowne's Deona Jones hit her second three-point shot of the game to keep the Mariners ahead, 51-46.
Holehouse answered for Fallston to make it 51-48 and Jayme Harmon scored seconds later on an inbounds pass to trim the Mariners lead to one, 51-50, with less than a minute to play.
Two Patton–Hill free throws off of a questionable intentional foul call made it 53-50 with 38.7 left and Head followed a missed Huff free throw seconds later for a 55-50 lead.
A three-pointer from Holehouse with 7.8 seconds left made it, 55-53. The Cougars had a another chance with 6.7 seconds left after Joppatowne turned the ball over trying to get in bounds.
Joppatowne's Head stole the lobbed inbounds pass, but Fallston actually had one more true desperation shot at the buzzer that fell way short.
"I'm pleased with the way we played," Mariners head coach Mike Harris said, also pointing out and lauding the efforts of Patton-Hill and Huff, two of the Mariners who have taken on different roles as of late.
Patton-Hill led Joppatowne (19-3) with 20 points and Huff added 17.
Holehouse led all scorers with 21 points and Nosek finished with nine.
"It's definitely sad, it was a good game," Holehouse said. "And you have to give it to Joppatowne, they played a great game and it was a hard fight." The Cougars finish 13-8.