Francis Scott Key shrugged off a 16-7 first-quarter deficit, clung to a one-point lead at the half and then scraped its way to a 62-56 victory over the tournament host in last night's North Carroll Boys Holiday Tournament in Hampstead.
Key will play Centennial in tonight's tournament final at 8 and the Panthers will meet Linganore in the consolation game at 4. Centennial downed Key in last year's tournament final and, if the Eagles can do it again tonight, it would mark the sixth straight year they've won the tournament.
"Their pressure really hurt us early on, but our transition game got us back in it," said Key's Kevin DeCarlo, a junior center who finished with eight points and 12 rebounds. "We knew we could out-rebound them and once we got our act together, we did that."
Trailing by five with one quarter to play, the host Panthers (3-5) managed to tie the score at 50 on a pair of David Nowicki free throws with 6: 33 remaining, and the hosts took the lead momentarily on Nowicki's three-pointer with just over three minutes left.
The Eagles (2-3) didn't panic. Instead, they continued to create fast-break opportunities that resulted in easy layups.
"Key got a lot of easy baskets tonight because we didn't do a very good job of getting back on defense," said Panthers coach Troy Warehime. "We pressed them in the first half and we got some steals, but when they beat our press and got a few layups I called off the press and they were still beating us down the floor.
"We can't use experience as an excuse because we started four seniors. We just have to play smart and take better care of the ball."
Junior guard Josh Hollman led Key's up-tempo offense and finished with 14 points. Forward Brad Stonesifer added 12 points for the Eagles and guards Clintly Brownley and Jesse Brossoit chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Nowicki paced the Panthers with 14 points, followed by Justin Malbrough with 13 and senior guard Tony Reightler with 12.
Matt Laycock's 33 points put Centennial in position to beat pesky Linganore in yesterday's other opening-round game, but it was Chip Harrison's three steals in the final 81 seconds that put the 12th-ranked Eagles of Howard County over the top, 63-57.
"We didn't play very well mentally today so we had to pick it up defensively at the end," said Harrison, who finished with eight points. "We knew that we would be quicker than them, but we didn't really capitalize on it until late in the game."
Playing without its starting swingman, Brian Otten, who chose to spend his holiday playing in a national soccer tournament in Florida, Centennial had trouble putting away the Lancers of Frederick County (3-3).
The Eagles (6-0) trailed by a point heading into the fourth quarter, but took the lead for good when Scott Bross (eight points) fed Laycock on the baseline for an easy layup.
Linganore tried to foul its way back into the game, but Centennial hit enough foul shots down the stretch (20 of 28 for the game) and Harrison did the rest.
"Chip [Harrison] is our best defensive player by far," said Centennial coach Jim Hill.
Pub Date: 12/27/96