C. Milton Wright prevents N. Harford's James from earning her 600th win
Mustangs eliminate Hawks with a 51-46 victory in the Class 3A North first round
C. Milton Wright's Jessica Canami (left) and North Harford's Sarah Heaps battle for a loose ball in the first half. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun / February 24, 2012)
The Hawks (14-9) won the teams' regular-season meeting, but Friday, the host Mustangs (18-6) used their perimeter game and pressure defense as well as timely shooting during the last five minutes to advance past the first round of the Class 3A North regional. They will face Hereford on Monday.
Allie Appleby led the Mustangs with 15 points — all on 3-pointers — and Brittany Haber added 13, mostly from the perimeter.
"We've been working on shooting a lot lately, because we've been off a couple other games," said Haber, a senior guard. "But we came in early and worked on our shots, and it paid off."
Haber hit two jumpers and Appleby nailed a couple of 3-pointers in the 10-point run that boosted the Mustangs' lead to 42-30, but the Hawks opened the fourth quarter with six straight points and were within 43-38 after Sarah Heaps hit a pair of free throws with 5:27 to go.
Morgan Knox's 3-pointer cut the Mustangs' lead to 45-41 with 4:10 left, but two Hawks turnovers contributed to six straight C. Milton Wright points, which pushed the lead to 51-41. Knox hit another 3-pointer to pull within 51-44 with 2:28 left, but coach Marvin Evans slowed the ball down and used the press to stifle the Hawks until Julia Schrof hit two free throws in the final 23 seconds.
"They could have made a comeback," Haber said, "and I think we were all excited in the back of our minds. We didn't want to be done today. We didn't want [James] to get her 600th win. We wanted to keep playing."
James, the area's all-time leader in girls basketball coaching victories, tried to shield her players from the possible milestone, but they found out early in the day Friday. Nervous about the game herself, she didn't want to put pressure on them, especially playing without their top 3-point threat Kristen Eyler, who was on a college volleyball visit.
The Hawks came back from a 12-3 deficit to take a 24-23 lead on Schrof's follow shot just before the half, but that would be their last lead.
James switched defenses in the third quarter, going to a zone, but in the latter part of the quarter, the Mustangs started raining jump shots.
"I didn't expect the outside shooting," James said. "It was my mistake. I should have gone man-to-man earlier. We should never have taken off the press. We just had a position that was not being filled with Kristen gone. She can bust the 3 for us, and we needed that."
James, whose career record stands at 599-316, said she is not sure whether she will return for a 46th season. The demands of coaching, including summer work and fall ball, take a toll.
"I have not decided yet," James, 68, said. "We have a lot of rebuilding to do. We'll have a lot of young kids, and I just don't know. The season's not bad. The season runs four months, but we pretty much go 11 months, and most people don't know that."
NH—Briggs 2, Heaps 16, Knox 15, Young 1, Schroff 12. Totals 15 14-16 46.
CMW—Haggerty 6, Haber 13, Aro 2, Appleby 15, Canami 5, Smucker 8, Houck 2. Totals 21 3-4 51. Half: NH, 24-23.
Coaching victory leaders
The metro area's all-time girls basketball career win leaders