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Surprising young Lady Tigers grab Wayne Co. title

Members of the Hagerstown High School girls basketball team, coaches, and others associated with the team smile with the trophy after the Tigers edged Northeastern 37-35 in the championship game of the Wayne County Tournament Saturday night in Robert E. Clark Gymnasium.

By DAN HARNEY - For The Courier-Times

HAGERSTOWN — Many argue that there is no substitute for senior leadership, but there is also no substitute for youthful enthusiasm and confidence.

The Hagerstown High School girls basketball team does not have a senior on its basketball roster. Facing Northeastern for the Wayne County Tournament championship Saturday night, the Tigers were decided underdogs to the Knights, who entered the game with a 12-4 record, are having their best season in nearly a decade, and easily rolled past defending champion Cambridge City in the semifinals the night before.

This game was hard-fought and went down to the wire, but the Lady Tigers were the aggressors for most of the game, and with two freshman scoring seven consecutive points late in the contest to give the Tigers the lead for good, Hagerstown captured the title over Northeastern 37-35.

Both teams appeared to be nervous in the early going. Hagerstown missed its first seven shots. Northeastern didn’t fare much better, as Jenna McFarland hit two free throws to give the Knights an early lead.

More than a minute passed before Hallie Rogers hit a three-pointer to give the Tigers the lead at 3-2. The game was tied at 3-3, and later at 6-6, before McFarland scored and was fouled with 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter. She completed the conventional three-point play to give the Knights a 9-6 lead at the first stop.

Camryn Bradway opened the second quarter with a basket off a steal to pull Hagerstown to within one point. The teams traded free throws before Tiger point guard Kenzie Neeley buried a long three-pointer from the wing to restore the lead to Hagerstown at 12-11 with 5:42 remaining in the first half.

Willow Runyon hit a free throw for Northeastern to tie the game at 12-12. The Tigers responded with their first sustained run of the game. Rogers scored to send Hagerstown in front 14-12. Moments later, she hit a free throw to extend the lead to 15-12. Kassidy Oliger scored on an offensive rebound with 2:39 to give the Tigers a 17-12 lead.

Neither team scored again until the Knights held for the final shot of the first half. The got the shot they wanted with seven seconds remaining and Kenzie Chasteen delivered a long range three-pointer to cut the Tiger lead to 17-15 at halftime.

McFarland quickly tied the game at 17-17 to open the third quarter. Neither team could pull away. The game was tied again at 19-19 and 22-22. A basket by Oliger with seven seconds left deadlocked the score at 24-24 at the end of the third quarter.

Kenzie Slagle grabbed an offensive rebound and scored for Hagerstown 23 seconds into the fourth quarter. Emma Wright answered for the Knights to tie the game at 26-26. Oliger scored at 6:39, but Chasteen answered 20 seconds later, to tie the score at 28-28. Then both teams dialed up their defensive pressure and neither team scored for three minutes.

With 3:16 to play McFarland scored to send Northeastern back in front 30-28.

Then, in a pressure-packed game, two improbable heroes stepped forward for the Tigers. Freshman, Grace Klein, left her low post position and stepped out to bury a jump shot from the free throw line. On the next Hagerstown possession, Tiger freshman Maddie Ward confidently sank a three-point shot from the wing. At 1:43 Ward got around her defender and scored on an offensive rebound to complete a 7-0 Tiger run that made the score 35-30.

The Knights fought furiously to get back into the game. With 30 seconds to play, Wright scored inside. Rogers cashed in on a crucial one-and-one free throw opportunity for the Tigers, but Runyon immediately answered with a three-pointer to cut the Knight deficit to 37-35 with 13 seconds remaining.

Hagerstown missed the front of a one-and-one opportunity with 10 seconds remaining to give the Knights one last opportunity. They got off a three-point attempt with one second left. The shot did not go in, but the shooter was fouled and awarded three free throws. Hit three and win the game. Hit two and send the game to overtime. With the weight of over 2,000 screaming fans, she missed all three and the Tigers held on.

There was complete unanimity of opinion from both coaches in postgame remarks that the final play was one of many, and missing those free throws was no bigger than any other play in the back-and-forth contest.

A disappointed Knight Head Coach Sara Mayo expressed surprise that Hagerstown was more physical than her team.

“We did not play as well tonight as we did last night.” Mayo said. “We made too many mistakes and we let Hagerstown push us around. Their defense was very physical. We let them tell us where we were going to go, and what we were going to do on offense. That should never have happened. That is on us. We had set plays to run and we let them push us off our spots. They hustled more and played harder than we did. They were the better team today. We will see them again in a few weeks in the TEC race. We will be ready.”

Tiger Head Coach Chris Oliger was elated.

“No one outside of our program thought we could win this tournament, but we have been learning and improving all season.” Oliger said. “It was a game of runs and grit and we had enough to finish. We have improved so much. I am so excited about the potential of this team. They deserved this win and I am thrilled for them. Hats off the Northeastern. Sara (Mayo) is doing a great job with them. We look forward to our rematch in a few weeks.”

Hagerstown 37, Northeastern 35

NORTHEASTERN (35)

K. Drake 1-4 0-3 2, A. Drake 0-0 0-0 0, Chasteen 3-0 0-0 8, Runyon 1-9 1-4 4, Benjamin 1-1 0-0 2, McFarland 3-7 7-9 13, Wright 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 12-36 8-16 35.

HAGERSTOWN (37)

Bradway 2-5 0-0 4, Matanich 0-0 0-0 0, Rogers 2-12 4-6 9, Neeley 2-3 0-0 6, Ward 2-5 0-1 5, Slagle 1-1 0-2 2, Oliger 4-7 1-2 9. Klein 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 14-36 5-11 37.

Northeastern 9 6 9 11 - 35

Hagerstown 6 11 7 13 - 37

3-point goals - Northeastern 3 (Chasteen 2, Runyon), Hagerstown 4 (Neeley 2, Rogers, Ward). Rebounds – Northeastern 20 (Wright 7), Hagerstown 34 (Oliger 8). Total fouls – Northeastern 12, Hagerstown 17. Turnovers – Northeastern 11, Hagerstown 16. Records – Northeastern 12-5, Hagerstown 8-10.