Anne Arundel Community College had an opportunity to gain the top seeding in this week's state junior college women's basketball tournament with a victory yesterday over Frederick.
And the Pioneers' chances were enhanced by the unexpected return of their leading scorer and rebounder from an ankle injury.
If only Frederick had cooperated.
The visiting Cougars went ahead with six minutes left, built their lead to eight points and then withstood a late rally from Anne bTC Arundel to prevail, 74-70, and assure themselves of the No. 1 seeding in the tournament, which begins Thursday at Dundalk Community College.
Theresa Arnett led Frederick (18-3, 14-0) with 15 points, including three three-pointers in the second half.
Debbi Dadds, who missed Saturday's victory over Chesapeake after spraining her ankle last Wednesday against Frederick, had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Anne Arundel (15-2, 13-2).
The Pioneers' only two losses have come against Frederick -- the Cougars won, 70-65, last week -- and were expected to wind up as the third seed in the state tournament.
"We got killed by one play, that give-and-go to the weak side. They must have gotten 12 or 14 points off it," said Pioneers coach Tom Smith, whose team has one regular-season game remaining, tomorrow at Baltimore City CC.
Anne Arundel didn't help itself at the line, going 13-for-30.
Behind 72-64 with 1:40 remaining, Anne Arundel scored six of the next seven points. Alina Smith (14 points) hit from the outside, and after a free throw by Frederick's Julie Crowl, Dennis Perrone ran down an offensive rebound and made a three-pointer from the corner.
Dadds made one free throw to reduce the lead to 73-70 with 18.3 seconds left. She then gathered a missed free throw by Arnett, but Lindee Sisk's three-point shot was off the mark, and the Cougars' Lakeisha Cooper grabbed the rebound. Her free throw with 5.5 seconds left iced the game.
"We've had three tough games in five days," said Frederick coach Jack Mehl. "I thought the kids did a nice job stepping up in the second half. We made it exciting by missing the front ends of three one-and-ones with under a minute to play, but that's OK. I'm proud of them. "
Dadds informed Smith Sunday night that she was ready t return, and after her ankle passed a battery of tests the next day, she got her wish. But even that wasn't enough to prevent a second loss to the Cougars.
"It seems like we've gotten tentative against Frederick both times," said Smith, whose team cracked the national JuCo rankings two weeks ago, debuting at No. 9 and residing at No. 11 yesterday. "Certain ones don't want to step up and take the shot when they need to."