The Liberty boys basketball team nearly pulled the county's upset of the year Friday night against No. 14 South Carroll.
After losing to the Cavaliers by more than 20 points last month, the struggling Lions were down two with the ball in the final seconds, but couldn't finish the job in a 62-57 loss.
"All season long, I had been telling the kids that we could beat those guys," said Liberty coach Steve Johnson. "It's a rivalry game, and the guys get up for it. We match up well with them."
In the second half, the Lions (2-18, 1-11 Central Maryland Conference, 1-15 county) showed it.
Trailing by eight in the third quarter, Liberty rallied to pull even on a three-pointer by guard Ryan DeChant midway through the fourth, then took a 53-50 lead moments later on another three by Phil Snook (19 points).
The game's final minutes, however, belonged to the Cavaliers (15-4, 8-3, 4-0).
The Winfield team regained the lead, at 55-53, on a three-pointer by Bryan Lowry with two minutes left, then went on to score 12 of the final 16 points.
Liberty still had one last gasp, but Snook's 10-footer - which would've tied it - rimmed out with eight seconds left. Josh Boone, South Carroll's 6-9 center, then finished the Lions off, hitting a free throw after an intentional foul and ending the game with a dunk.
Boone finished with 26 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks.
With the Class 3A regional playoffs set to begin Feb. 22, the Lions hope to use their performance as a springboard.
"The last few games of the season we've been pushing, because our region is not really that tough this year," Johnson said. "We've been focusing on completing games. This was a big game for us."
Carroll Christian tunes up
As the Carroll Christian boys basketball teams winds down its best season in years, coach Roger Wood is doing what he can to prepare the rejuvenated Patriots for the coming Maryland Association of Christian Schools tournament.
The Westminster squad is in the middle of back-to-back games against Faith of Martinsburg (W.Va.) and Evangel (Essex), the latter of which it will face tonight.
With the tournament slated to begin on Feb. 21, Wood hopes to use the final two regular-season games as a springboard.
"That's exactly why we scheduled it this way," Wood said. "We have back-to-back games against difficult teams, because that's the type of thing we'll see in the tournament."
Carroll Christian (14-5), seeded third out of eight teams, will play host to Calvary Baptist of Glen Bernie in the tournament opener. Earlier this season, Calvary beat the Patriots by 15.
This time, however, Wood said his team should be better prepared.
"We have two very tough games, then we have three practices to get ready for this team," said Wood, whose squad has won nine games in the past two seasons, suffering a pair of first-round blowouts. "[Our chances] are a lot better than they have been in the past."
Six-foot sophomore swingman Greg Mason leads the team in most offensive categories, averaging 19 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.
One win to clinch
After Friday's 48-40 win over South Carroll, the Liberty girls basketball team can wrap up a county title Friday with a win over visiting North Carroll.
A loss, however, could open the door for Westminster.
Both teams will enter their games with one county defeat, but since the county recognizes its champion based solely on winning percentage, the Lions (5-1 in the county) can claim the crown regardless of what Westminster (4-1) does against South Carroll on Friday.
If the Lions (9-9 overall) lose and the Owls (12-7) win, however, the championship would go to Westminster.
Liberty edged North Carroll, 52-49, on Jan. 24. The Panthers are 6-13, including 1-10 in the CMC.
No. 1 vs. No. 2
Top-ranked Douglass visits No. 2 Dunbar today in a boys basketball matchup that is intriguing for a number of reasons.
It marks the biggest meeting between the two programs since Douglass defeated Dunbar for the Baltimore City crown in 1996.
This year's game also could be a preview of the city championship. Dunbar already has clinched the nine-team Division I title with an 8-0 record, and Douglass is 5-0 in the six-team Division II, with one game remaining at Douglass against No. 8 Southern-Baltimore on Friday.
The visiting Ducks (20-0) are led by high-scoring guards, senior Tyler Smith and junior Gerald Brown, and the Poets (15-3) by senior guards James Taylor and Jujuan Robinson.
The game will be a homecoming for the head coaches of both teams. Douglass' Rodney Coffield graduated from Dunbar in 1980, Dunbar's Eric Lee in 1985.
The is also a homecoming of sorts for Brown, who transferred to Douglass from Dunbar after his freshman year.
Douglass is on track to become the city's first unbeaten team since Southwestern went 27-0 over the 1996-97 season, winning the Class 4A state title and finishing with the No. 1 area ranking.
Students and parents from both schools must display their corresponding activity cards before gaining entrance to the game, according to Dunbar athletic director, Barbara Allen. She said students from other schools will not be admitted.