Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Mustangs take Falcons to OT

Poor shooting leads to loss for McNamara against WCAC’s top team

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J. Adam Fenster⁄The Star
McNamara’s Alexis Canady draws a blocking call against Good Counsel’s Mary Ann Kuzma during Friday’s game in Forestville. Canady finished with nine points.
The first time the Bishop McNamara High School girls’ basketball team faced Good Counsel this season, turnovers cost the Mustangs and they lost by 16 points. When the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference leaders met again Friday, the Mustangs controlled the ball better. They just couldn’t buy a basket.

McNamara made less than a third of its shots from the field and less than half from the foul line in its 59-58 overtime loss to the Falcons in Forestville. Good Counsel hardly was any better, opening the door several times for McNamara with its 13-for-34 free-throw shooting. But it was still enough to stay in first place and keep the Mustangs (18-3, 13-2 after Tuesday’s win against St. John’s) in second with four league games remaining.

‘‘It was both ways,” McNamara coach Robert Surratt said of the poor shooting. ‘‘That’s what you expect in a game like this with two of the top teams in the conference. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to go down to the wire every time.”

It wasn’t just that the Mustangs missed shots. They missed them at inopportune times. The most crushing droughts came in the final seconds of regulation, when McNamara missed three go-ahead chances in a row under the basket, and in overtime, when the Mustangs missed six of their last seven shots.

‘‘We played better [than the first time], but we just made little mistakes,” Surratt said. ‘‘And we didn’t shoot the ball well at all. We were 18 for 60 from the floor. You can’t win like that. You’ve got to shoot at least 40 percent.”

The Falcons (21-2, 14-1 after Tuesday’s win against Bishop O’Connell) nearly pulled away early in the second half, leading by as many as seven in the third quarter behind Shanel Harrison’s 24 points.

For McNamara, guard Tierra Thomas added 12 and Alexis Canady scored nine, including a stumbling layup after going coast to coast at the buzzer to tie the score entering the final period. Forward Ebony Edwards scored a season-high 18 points and was key in helping the Mustangs come back.

In the final minute of regulation, she faked out Good Counsel’s Mary Ann Kuzma just beyond the 3-point arc, and Kuzma wildly dived past her into the backcourt. Edwards leaned toward the basket and sent the off-balanced shot through the net. The awkward play surprised Edwards and tied with the score, 52-52, with 26.6 seconds left.

‘‘I was trying to get [Kuzma] to foul me while I was shooting it,” Edwards said. ‘‘I didn’t think it was going in, but it did.”

On Good Counsel’s next possession, Kuzma tripped under pressure from the Mustangs’ press and Edwards came up with the loose ball and sent it to freshman center Lindsay Williams in the paint. The last shot bounced out and turned into two more, but none went in and the game went to overtime.

With a 56-56 tie late in the extra period, Edwards drew a charge on Symone Lyles, but Tiana Myers missed her shot and Harrison put the Falcons ahead by putting back an offensive rebound.

Harrison was just 1 for 4 from the free-throw line the rest of the game as the Mustangs fouled to stop the clock, but they looked hapless under the basket as second-chance attempts rimmed out on their two next possessions.

Trailing by three points in the final seconds, McNamara got the basket it wanted when Myers drove for a layup. But with 1.9 seconds left and Good Counsel with the ball, there wasn’t anything else McNamara could do.

If the teams are to meet again, it likely would be in the championship game. McNamara is one win away from clinching the second seed and Good Counsel is two wins away from tying up the first seed. That would place the teams in opposite brackets and make the title game the final arbiter, giving Edwards and the Mustangs a chance they are eager to have.

‘‘I really don’t think there’s much that separates us,” she said. ‘‘I think we just missed a few shots that could have helped us win the game.”

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