The last time an Arundel girls basketball team qualified for the regional playoffs -- March of 1987 -- was also the last time the Wildcats had a winning record (13-8).
Four years later, the program had anew coach, Lee Rogers, and brought a school-record 15 wins into lastnight's Class 4A Region IV quarterfinal game against Severna Park.
The fifth-seeded Wildcats, who built a 15-point lead in the second quarter, lost for the eighth and final time this season, 43-39, because the fourth-seed Falcons (16-6) just refused to be beaten when the game was on the line.
Arundel, which shot 7-for-43 after the first quarter, led just 35-33 to start the fourth. Severna Park's Nikki Cecere tied the game, 35-35, on a jumper with 5 minutes, 33 seconds left.
With 1:57 left, the Falcons' Lori Sharpless (14 points) scored her fourth three-pointer to give her squad its first lead, 39-37. In the final 30 seconds, Severna Park's Kate Marks (one free throw) and Jill Natwick (two) both were fouled and gave the Falcons the winning edge.
"In the first game, they shot very well and we didn't handle their press too well," said Severna Park coach Kevin McGrath, whose Falcons face top-seeded Old Mill (18-1) tomorrow at 7 p.m. "We've reviewed the film and we worked on some things to understand their press a little better."
That wasn't the case in the first half, when Severna Park shot 8-for-31 and Arundel capitalized on nine steals to lead, 20-11, after the first period and 30-18 at the half.
The Falcons couldn't penetrate the Wildcats' half-court zone. The Wildcats went inside to Tiffany Clayton (eight points, nine rebounds) consistently before she went to the bench with three fouls and 50 seconds left in the period.
Meanwhile, Arundel's Mary Pat Fannon (12 points) and Donna Parker (five) were ripping the nets from both inside and outside the paint. The Wildcats led, 26-11, before going cold in the third quarter.
That's when the Falcons used a 13-3 run to turn a 30-18 halftime deficit into a 33-31 deficit with 20 seconds remaining inthe period. In that stretch, Sharpless scored her third three-pointer and Amy Carneggio (five points) followed with another, bringing them to within 33-29.
Arundel won the only regular-season matchup, 54-50, on Jan. 25.