The Arundel Wildcats appear to be up to their old tricks again, saving their best for season's end.
Their regular-season meeting against Meade a month ago wasn't even close, the No. 4-ranked Mustangs winning in a walk.
So just how did No. 11 Arundel turn that 19-point loss into a solid 75-67 win at Meade last night to capture the Anne Arundel County championship?
"It was important for us to establish ourselves. Show people you can't look past us," said Arundel coach Lee Rogers. "Since we lost to them, I think we believe more in what we're doing. It's all coming together -- piece by piece."
The Wildcats (18-5) dominated the boards, getting 19 rebounds from Shaunte Edmonds and 18 more from Najimah Fauntleroy. They controlled Meade senior guard Angie Creek, limiting her to just 11 points after she scored 31 on them the first time.
And they got a stellar performance from sophomore guard Jill Marano, who had most of the offensive answers in finishing with a game-high 24 points.
No basket was bigger than her jumper from the right side with 18 seconds left, giving the Wildcats a 71-67 lead after the Mustangs (19-4) came back from a 17-point third-quarter deficit to cut the lead to two.
"We came ready to play this time, and we were able to shut down Angie Creek better," said Marano. "At the beginning of the season, we lost a couple players, but everything is coming together now. We're playing real well. Everyone is always telling me to shoot the ball, so I was trying to shoot it. And they went in."
It made for another frustrating night for the Mustangs, who went through the regular season a perfect 16-0 for the second straight season only to see Arundel walk off with the championship plaque.
After winning the county championship last season, Arundel defeated the Mustangs again in the Class 4A East region final before advancing to the state final game.
Still, the Mustangs had some consolation, showing poise in coming back from last night's big deficit to make a game of it.
"It was important we came back and made the run right to the end," said Meade coach Phil Popielski. "They showed guts and determination to get within two. It shows this group doesn't quit. I was proud of them."
Fauntleroy added 18 points to go with her big night on the boards with senior guard Meagan Rollins adding 14 and Edmonds 10 for the Wildcats.
Sophomore Nicole Dailey led four Mustangs in double figures with 19. Katie Netherton added 18 with LaTanya Eldridge finishing with 14.
The teams may meet again in the region playoffs. Meade must first get past Severna Park with Arundel taking on Westminster.
Pub Date: 2/25/99