Wild­cats out­last Bru­ins in opener

ARUN­DEL 62, BROADNECK 57

The Capital - - SPORTS - By Kather­ine Fominykh [email protected]

As young as it is, Arun­del’s girls bas­ket­ball team cer­tainly didn’t look as green as its jer­seys when on the court on Fri­day.

If any­thing, the Wild­cats looked like a team ready to make a name for them­selves in the county.

“Word’s go­ing to get out there soon that we’re go­ing to be the team to beat,” sopho­more guard Nikki Seven said.

With an em­pha­sis on pick­ing up turnovers, the Wild­cats squeezed Broadneck when it mat­tered, out­last­ing the Bru­ins, 62-57, to open the sea­son.

“Well, we’ve been work­ing hard on de­fense in prac­tice, talk­ing about, ‘You want it on the court, you got to play de­fense,’” Arun­del coach Lee Rogers said.

Seven matched fresh­man guard Heather Mid­dle­ton to power Arun­del, each with 13 points.

Though Arun­del only started one ninth grader, the Wild­cats had two of five score, each prov­ing that the Wild­cats’ level of ex­pe­ri­ence did not mean they’d be an easy tar­get. Arun­del was ag­gres­sive in the paint, siz­ing out Broadneck and forc­ing turnovers right and left.

“Be­fore the game, we were go­ing to put on a press, and [our coaches] said we needed to keep up the de­fense, work to­gether as a team,” Seven said, “Work to­gether to steal the ball and get a fast break – so that’s what we did.”

Broadneck coach Gail Davis’ squad racked up on of­fense, par­tic­u­larly guard Tylia Wash­ing­ton, who had a ban­ner out­ing to her fourth sea­son with 17 points.

“I’m just happy to see a se­nior af­ter four years of be­ing our start­ing point guard re­ally kick off her se­nior sea­son in that way,” Davis said.

Broadneck fresh­man Ni­cole Hagopian cap­tured the spot­light on Fri­day, though, amass­ing 20 points and six 3-point­ers. Davis had known be­fore the first whis­tle that her new guard would shine; Hagopian had led the Bru­ins in scor­ing in their scrim­mages.

Scor­ing was con­cen­trated in the first quar­ter to a hand­ful of play­ers as both teams sent their de­fenses into over­drive. Only Seven had more than one field goal for the Wild­cats, with three; for Broadneck, Wash­ing­ton, Hagopian and Ma­son Smar­gissi each hit 3-point­ers.

Nat­u­rally, both teams were knot­ted up at 15 at the end of the first.

It was in the se­cond frame that Arun­del spread the wealth, with new play­ers like Mid­dle­ton and fresh­man Tye Queen get­ting bas­kets. Though Broadneck struck first, Arun­del bat­ted their hosts back, lead­ing as solid of a mar­gin that one team could want for over their ri­val, 32-26.

But of course, the Wild­cats couldn’t be con­tent with that. At the buzzer, Arun­del ran ahead to a 10-point lead, back­ing Broadneck against the wall. The Bru­ins started to al­low lit­tle mis­takes, which handed the Wild­cats six made free throws in the third quar­ter alone, which would, of course, mat­ter in a game won by five points.

“When the clock starts run­ning down, and we’re los­ing, it’s im­por­tant to bring in those free throws to get back up,” Mid­dle­ton said.

For Hagopian, though, it seemed like the first half was just warm-ups for her shoot­ing game. The fresh­man fired three treys in eight min­utes, help­ing to whit­tle their guests’ lead along­side Wash­ing­ton, who had a pair of 3-point­ers her­self.

Arun­del was pick­ing up on Broadneck’s lack of con­fi­dence in their pass­ing game, though, a prob­lem that would only be­come more glar­ing in the last quar­ter. Even as the Bru­ins looked like they’d be car­ry­ing a lead for the first time at the end of eight min­utes, Arun­del flipped pos­ses­sion in the fi­nal sec­onds and took the lead, 46-45.

“I thought that we gave up a lot of size, and we know that’s go­ing to be our Achilles’ heel this year,” Davis said. “But we’re very ath­letic. We’ll just be try­ing to pick up the pace and keep up with teams.”

Even Arun­del started to let lit­tle er­rors creep up, as Wash­ing­ton alone shot five free throws for the Bru­ins in the fourth. How­ever, some missed bas­kets on Broadneck’s end gave the Wild­cats the leave they needed to end up with a some­what com­fort­able lead head­ing into the fi­nal thirty sec­onds.

“It’s all about ef­fort. If you make a mis­take, it’s OK, as long as there’s ef­fort. They buy into that,” Rogers said.

When Broadneck added one, Arun­del would re­ply with just one more, but the Bru­ins didn’t stop fight­ing. Both teams, no mat­ter how much ex­haus­tion must have been drag­ging at their an­kles by the last hand­ful of play­ers, charged with so much force down the hard­wood that it sounded like Broadneck High had opened its doors to a stam­pede of horses.

It made for a game that Davis called the most fun of her ca­reer.

“I just told my team it’s De­cem­ber 7th, and to have a bat­tle game in the con­fer­ence, we should just be re­ally proud and op­ti­mistic at this point,” Davis said.

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