No. 9 Fallston faced its biggest test of the season last night against visiting Joppatowne, and it was up to the challenge as it outlasted the Mariners, 51-44, to remain undefeated.
Outmatched in size and strength inside, the Cougars needed a strong outside performance, and for the most part they got it.
In a game that saw five lead changes and one tie, Joppatowne (13-2, 8-1) never made things easy for Fallston (15-0, 9-0).
"Our key coming in was to stop [leading scorer Brandi Barnes] and we did an all right job doing it, but you can't just focus on her alone because Joppatowne has so much balance," said Fallston coach Nancy Ferguson.
Barnes finished with a team-high 12 points, but didn't get her first points until there was one second left in the first quarter.
Fallston kept pushing the ball inside in hopes of drawing fouls, but it was the Cougars who ran into foul trouble.
After Dionna Bishop's breakaway layup and a three-point basket by Santae Boyd tied the score for Joppatowne at 40-40 with 3:45 left, Fallston center Candy Credito fouled out at the 3:27 mark of the final quarter.
Credito led Fallston with 12 points while pulling down 20 rebounds and blocking two shots.
"We knew they would double-team Barnes and we tried to utilize our outside people but it became evident that there was an intimidation factor with the kids meeting a team like Fallston," said Joppatowne coach Lynette Shelley.
Ferguson said, "At halftime I told the girls that sometimes you have toplay with heart and we let them get back into the game in the second quarter and we came out a little bit more patient and more contained on defense."
Fallston went into halftime with a 25-24 lead.
The second half was more of a game of missed opportunities for Joppatowne, which had numerous second and third chances.
The Mariners didn't get their first point of the second half until midway through the third period. Yet when Fallston went cold, a baseline layup by Denea Boyd and a free throw by Bishop got the Mariners to within 36-30.
"It was frustrating because the girls were not following through on getting set shots inside," said Shelley.
Fallston took control on two free throws from Jenny Weber (10 points) and a layup by Lori Heffley (nine points) that put the Cougars ahead to stay, 44-40.