Northern girls' basketball coach Clarence Tennell stood and watched in disgust as his team missed free throw after free throw in Friday's warm-up to its game against rival Calvert. When he had seen enough, he ordered the girls off the court and into the locker room.
"They weren't just misses, they were air balls," Tennell said. "I swear it must have been 15 in a row."
Whatever the problem, the Patriots got it out of their system for a 47-45 Southern Maryland Athletic Conference victory. Northern connected on 22 of 27 attempts from the foul line during the game, including 12 of 13 in the decisive fourth quarter, to erase a 10-point third-quarter deficit.
"What was it?" asked Northern junior Katie Faulkner, who paced the Patriots with 12 points, including hitting 5-of-6 from the foul line. "Luck!"
The victory assured Northern (10-9 overall, 8-5 SMAC) the third-place seed in today's draw for the Maryland 3A South Region playoffs. Calvert (8-12, 6-8) will vie with Thomas Stone for the fourth and final seeded spot.
The region's top four teams are seeded based on the winning percentage of their overall record, not including games played in a holiday tournament.
In a rare occurrence, the second half of the doubleheader featuring the Patriots and Cavaliers boys' teams proved an even lower-scoring event. In a slow-paced game that was highlighted by two relentless defenses, Calvert outlasted Northern, 36-29.
And with similar stakes on the line, the victory may have moved the Cavaliers (15-4, 9-4) into the third seed for the regional tournament, with the Patriots (13-6, 10-3) falling to the fourth and final seeded position.
"I think you can say the layoff [from the snowstorm] affected both teams' shooting," Calvert Coach Rick Lagana said. "But, now, we didn't figure this game would get out of the 40s."
No player from either boys' team scored in double figures. And though the slow pace is much more the Patriots' style than the Cavaliers', that wasn't the case Friday night. The standing-room-only crowd at Northern saw just what Lagana ordered.
"We decided after the first time we played them that we were going to have to change our style against them," Lagana said. "They make it too difficult to get up and down the floor, which is how we prefer to play.
"So we decided we were going to grind it out with them, and if that meant making five passes or more on every possession, that's what we were going to do.
"They are too good at what they do, too well-coached, to do anything else but take what they give you, and that's what we ultimately did tonight. You can tell by the score it wasn't much, but it was enough."