The Fallston girls will get a chance to defend their Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference championship tonight. That's not something many people would have predicted when the season began.
That's because the Cougars lost three starters from last year's 22-4 team that beat Joppatowne in the title game. But coach Vern Brown's young team clicked after a slow start and clinched the Chesapeake Division title by beating Joppatowne, 49-38, last Thursday night.
With the win Fallston finished with a 14-8 overall record and 9-3 mark in the division. Brown's Cougars won 10 of their final 14 games and will meet Susquehanna Division champion Edgewood in a 5:30 game at Harford Tech.
Bel Air also finished 9-3 in conference play, but Fallston won the division by virtue of the conference's third tie-breaker, record against common nondivision opponents. Both teams played Edgewood; Fallston beat the Rams twice, and the Bobcats lost.
For Fallston, there was another big change at the start of this season when Brown became the solo head coach. He'd been co-coaching with Alice Puckett, but she stepped down to devote more time to field hockey.
Brown was proud of how the team came together and kept getting better down the stretch.
"A lot of people weren't giving us a chance because we lost three starters and 60 percent of our offense," Brown said. "I'm proud of them for persevering."
Kristen Steiner and Lexy Fitzkee combined for 23 points in the Joppatowne game. Jen Harlee has played a big role also, along with starters Jess Steiner and Brianna Voorhees.
The Cougars won't match last year's 22-4 record, but they will have the major part of their team returning next season, ready to learn from the lessons of this year.
"They've come a long way," Brown said. "They've had a lot of hurdles and obstacles on and off the court."
Boys title game
Aberdeen and Edgewood will play at 7 tonight at Harford Tech for the boys championship.
The two teams played 12 days ago, with Aberdeen rallying for a 52-50 victory over the host Rams on a last-second shot. Like the Fallston girls, Aberdeen's boys will be defending last year's championship.
After winning the UCBAC title, Aberdeen made it to the Class 2A state finals. The Eagles, however, have moved up to Class 3A this year and are in a tough East region that includes No. 14 Annapolis.
All of the boys and girls teams will start the state regional playoffs this weekend.
John Carroll just missed the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference basketball playoffs. Boys' Latin's 76-60 win over the Patriots 12 days ago locked the Patriots out of postseason play.
But a win could have put John Carroll in. That's a long way to come from last year, when the Patriots went 0-25 overall and lost all 16 B Conference games. Under new coach Tony Martin, a young John Carroll team took some lumps this season but played well against some good teams, even beating state runner-up Joppatowne. .
The Patriots were very young this year and could be even better the next two years.
Harford Tech coach Gary Siler saw his team trailing Rising Sun by 7.5 points heading into the final round of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference wrestling championship last Saturday at Aberdeen. But Siler knew his Cobras still had a shot.
"The best thing is that we were matched up with them three times and won two," Siler said.
That proved crucial as Harford Tech rallied to edge Rising Sun for the team title. On the strength of five individual titles, the Cobras finished with 206 points, beating out Rising Sun (196.5), which crowned two champions. The Cobras now have won six straight UCBAC (two) or Harford County (four) championships.
Mark Taylor (112 pounds, 27-5), Eric Haskell (125, 23-6), Mike Long (130, 32-2), Matt Kahl (145, 28-3) and Jeff Gardner (171, 26-8) won for Harford Tech.
Haskell and Gardner beat Rising Sun wrestlers in the finals. Haskell had little trouble in scoring a 13-3 major decision over Rising Sun's Nick Dawson, and Gardner's 8-2 decision over Will Maegerle (171) clinched the team title for the Cobras. Matt Oates (119) lost to Rising Sun's Matt Jackson, 7-0, in the other finals match between the top two teams.
Siler's team now heads to the Class 2A-1A East regional tournament this week at Stephen Decatur on the Eastern Shore. He's hopeful that the Cobras can keep their momentum going to give the team a shot at their first state title. Harford Tech has been close twice, placing second in 2003 and 2004.
"If we can keep things going, I think we're going to do really well in the states," Siler said.
Also in the UCBAC tournament, Bel Air finished third with 154.5, and North Harford took fifth with 127.
Other county winners included B.J. Yantz (Bel Air, 135, 27-5), Shane Correll (Bel Air, 31-2), Brandon Bowers (Fallston, 160, 19-5), Justin Hohner (North Harford, 189, 29-3) and Anthony Lester (C.M. Wright, 215, 22-6).