LARGO -- Moments after last night's championship game of the IAABO Invitational Christmas Tournament, with the large crowd at Prince George's Community College still in a frenzy, St. Mary's coach Harry Dobson was asked the question.
"Was this your team's best comeback ever?"
Said Dobson in a hoarse voice: "I can't think of any that's been better."
For a team long known for its comebacks, last night's 68-67 win over Largo might well have been the best ever.
Down by 16 with 3: 30 left in the third quarter, the second-ranked Saints took command in the final quarter. They pulled even with a minute left before winning on Maria Smear's 15-footer at the buzzer, sending the Lions, ranked 10th in the Washington area, to their first defeat.
In the consolation game, No. 5 Arundel lost to Riverdale Baptist, ranked 16th in the Washington area, 57-48, giving the Class 4A runner-up its second loss in as many days.
Following an uncharacteristically poor first half, in which they trailed by double digits most of the way, the Saints (9-0) got bTC back in the game with full-court pressure, forcing 13 second-half turnovers.
Despite a game-high 30 points from Largo's 6-foot-3 center Candace Sutton, who dominated in the paint, St. Mary's held the Lions to 10-for-37 shooting in the second half.
Largo shot 53 percent in the first.
Smear and fellow guard Emily Lipton (both with 18 points) led an 11-0 run that got the Saints to within four early in the fourth quarter. Then, with a minute left, Terri Daniels' layup tied it at 66.
Sutton hit one of two foul shots with 15 seconds left to put Largo up by one. St. Mary's then pushed the ball downcourt to center Felicia Holloway, who missed a layup.
The ball bounced to Daniels, who somehow rolled it to Smear open on the perimeter.
"I just picked it off the floor and shot," said Smear. "We always knew we could win. This team could be down by 30 and not give up."
For Largo (7-1), it was a bitter defeat.
"We didn't execute well in the fourth quarter," said Largo coach Bob Blair. "I take nothing away from them, because they kept coming back and coming back. They got the rebounds and they got the shots."
Leading 6-3, St. Mary's began to struggle, getting burned inside repeatedly by Sutton. The junior sparked a 14-2 run that gave the Lions a 17-8 lead with 1: 06 left in the first quarter.
Earlier in the night, Arundel (5-3) hung tough early, as 6-foot-3 center Shaunte Edmonds scored six in the first 5: 25 and dominated the boards.
When she was forced to the bench with her third foul late in the first quarter, however, Riverdale Baptist (14-1) took control, going on a 20-4 run to open a commanding lead.
Jill Marano led the Wildcats with 13 points.
On Monday, Arundel lost to Largo in the semifinals, 87-59.
Pub Date: 12/30/98