With her team scheduled to play Fallston again in 10 days and possibly a third time in the playoffs, C. Milton Wright coach Gloria Liedlich chose to view yesterday's game with the Cougars as the first round of a three-round boxing match.
It was easy to see why Liedlich would use that analogy considering the way her team had the Cougars on the ropes early, let them off, and then had to overcome a flurry of turnovers to claim a 62-58 decision.
For awhile, the large crowd that gathered to see Harford County's two unbeatens go toe-to-toe thought they were going to witness a lopsided victory by the fifth-ranked Mustangs, but 10 fourth-quarter turnovers by the hosts kept both the fans and Cougars in the game.
"You have to give a lot of credit to Fallston because they're not quitters," said Liedlich. "They come at you for 32 minutes and you have to be ready to play for 32 minutes. Our seniors really came through for us."
None as effectively as senior Miranda James. The 5-foot-7 guard scored eight of her game-high 23 points during the second quarter that saw No. 6 Fallston get outscored, 23-11.
Things went from bad to worse for the Cougars in the third quarter as they shot 5-of-20 from the field and trailed by as many as 17.
Trailing by 15 with one quarter to go, Fallston (11-1, 8-1) applied full-court pressure and immediately reaped the rewards. With Wright struggling at the foul line -- the Mustangs missed eight in a row during one stretch in the fourth quarter -- the Cougars closed to within seven with 6:22 left after two free throws by Courtney Benner (22 points).
"We don't have any quitters," said Fallston coach Nancy Ferguson. "Miranda James was just on tonight. We couldn't buy a basket and they didn't even have to shoot for awhile there."
The Mustangs (14-0, 10-0) stretched the margin back to 11 when Erin Updegrove (10 points) broke the press and hit a short jumper, but Fallston continued to force turnovers and cut the lead to four with 40.1 seconds left on a steal and layup by Rachel Simon.
The Cougars were forced to foul James down the stretch and she made them pay for it by hitting 4-of-4 to ice it.
Amanda Moculski finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Mustangs and 6-4 junior center Nicole Nimmo added 10 points and six rebounds.
Karen Tiedemann contributed 14 points in a losing effort and Jessica Mook chipped in 11.
"Even though we lost we feel pretty good because we only lost by four and next time we play them it will be even a much better game because we'll have to get back at them," said Benner.