Santa Claus showed up at Bethesda-Chevy Chase last night, but the jolly visitor didn't bring the hosts any presents.

The Barons couldn't solve Gaithersburg's sagging zone defense nor stop center Jia Simms and dropped a tough 50-45 decision in a Montgomery AA Division I League game.

Simms, a 6-foot-5 senior, finished with 25 points, nine of them coming in the final four minutes, as the Trojans (4-1) built their largest lead, 43-32. But Simms' heroic effort was almost wasted as the visitors missed enough free throws and committed some costly turnovers as the Barons (2-2) put on a ferocious rally and almost pulled the game out.

"I put in some kids who were charted as good foul shooters but they didn't come though," said Gaithersburg Coach Bill Sutton. "We also had some turnovers, too many mistakes. But it's nice to have a player like Jia."

Bethesda-Chevy Chase's patience and passing game enabled it to stay in the game in the first three periods. But down 10 points, the hosts had to abandon that strategy and shoot. In between some uninspired play by the Trojans, Ronald Manning tossed in two three-pointers and a pair of free throws, Mike Smith (15 points) made a layup and Tanino Umaro and John Knaus added free throws as the Barons cut the deficit to three points, 48-45, with 26 seconds remaining.

Gaithersburg's Tod Bumgardner and Jeff Day both went to the line but missed the front end of one-and-one situations and the Trojans missed two shots inside in the final 25 seconds, keeping the Barons alive.

But Bethesda-Chevy Chase couldn't get the three-point shot it wanted and Smith missed a one-and-one opportunity with three seconds left.

Kevin Kimball's two free throws with one second left finally sewed up the game for Sutton and his troops.

"When we get a team down by 10 or 12, we have to be able to put them away," said Simms, who also had 13 rebounds and was presented some roses for his effort. "I think it was just a lack of concentration. They used a slowdown game to stop us from running and we couldn't pull away."

Despite the Barons' tactics, Gaithersburg led throughout. Simms had eight points in the opening period as his team earned a 16-10 lead. But the Trojans went more than four minutes without a point as Bethesda-Chevy Chase closed to within three points, 22-19.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase made only three of its next 11 shots over a nine-minute span and began falling behind again. Simms got a some help inside as Ricky Smith (12 points) scored eight straight points to help his team build a 37-27 lead.