For the first half of yesterday's Maryland Class AA Region II championship game, Eric Smith and his Churchill teammates concentrated on staying out of foul trouble while visiting Springbrook grabbed a 31-24 lead.
But Bulldog Coach Les Lombardi let his troops loose in the third quarter and the results were disastrous for Springbrook.
Churchill scored nine straight points, outscored the Blue Devils 22-10, in the quarter and rolled to a 68-55 victory.
Smith, who weighs in at 180 and claims to have grown an inch to 6-foot-5 since the start of the season, had scored two points in each of the first two periods.
But he added 13 in the third period and 11 in the fourth to finish with a game-high 28 as Churchill improved its record to 17-8 and earned a semifinal slot in the state tournament Thursday against Annapolis or Southern of Harwood.
"We wanted to stay out of foul trouble early so we played a zone in the first half," explained Lombardi, in his fifth year at Churchill. "Our quickness getting into the man to man in the second half really hurt them.
"Playing man really pushed Eric. He can play great defense and it gets him moving an offense."
Richard Spalding opened the third period with a free throw and moments later scored on a rebound for Churchill. Jay Dove's rebound bucket cut Springbrook's lead to two, 31-29, and a Smith basket tried the score. Dave Porter's corner jumper put the Bulldogs ahead.
After Scott Wolz retired the game for the Devils, five straight points by Smith put Churchill ahead, 38-33, and Springbrook (16-9) never recovered.
"In the first half I told the little men to get the ball inside to me and I'd score," said Smith. "They didn't, so I moved out (in the second half) to get the ball."
More importantly, Smith took the Wolz 6-6 out of Springbrook's scoring pattern. The Devils top scorer, who had 18 in the first half, was limited to eight the rest of the way.
"I just tried to get to his spot before he did," said Smith, who quarter-back the Bulldogs, to the state AA football title. "He's going to shoot if he gets the ball."
Wolz hardly saw the ball the final 16 minutes and Churchill had its third win of the 1977-78 season against Springbrook.