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ACAC Semi final - NS article

January 16, 2013
By Bob Lapadot of Garrett High School

Give Garrett's Taylor Smith a little break that she was nervous. Playing in Memorial Coliseum, and a large stadium for that matter, can be a little nerve-racking the first time. Add that it was the semifinals of the ACAC Tournament and it's no surprise she had a few struggles.

Especially since she's only a freshman.

Eventually, Smith relaxed and realized it didn't take anything special to play there, and once she did that, she took over. The freshman scored a game-high 22 points and had 13 rebounds as Garrett (11-4) defeated Heritage 62-44. The win pits the Railroaders against Leo, 59-26 winners against Adams Central, in the tournament finals Saturday at noon at the Coliseum.

“Well in the beginning I was kind of nervous, as you could probably tell,” Smith said. “It wasn't the best and then toward the beginning of the second quarter we all started to settle down and it was a lot better.”

Smith's point total came in large part by forcing fouls on the inside. She hit seven of 13 free throws in the game, but more importantly, forced fouls on Heritage's Miriah Bradtmueller and Kendall Knapke.

The two were Heritage's leading scorers coming into the contest and its top two post players, but both fouled out of the game with 1:55 remaining in the third quarter. The fouls were part of 16 called in the third quarter.

“That put us at quite a pinch on both ends of the floor,” Heritage head coach John Beckman said. “(Bradtmueller and Knapke) are two of our best defenders and we ended up getting players that were typically not used to playing that interior defense like that, and they just got out of position, and we were fouling them. I think I saw a record number of 3-point plays where they finished and get the and-one.”

The large amount of fouls left Bradtmueller and Knapke with a combined 10 points. Hannah Beckman's 13 points and three players with six points each led Heritage (10-6) in the game.

Part of all the foul calls, though, was Garrett's ability to routinely get the ball inside to Smith one-on-on with her defender. This was dictated by Brandi Dawson, who leads Garrett in scoring average, being positioned along the baseline on one side with Smith on the paint on the opposite side of the basket. Dawson finished the game with 15 points, 14 rebounds and three assists.

“Becca Oliver did a great job; she's our best post feeder, and she just kept on feeding (Smith),” Garrett head coach Bob Lapadot said. “They have to respect Brandi on the other side of the floor, and that kind of leaves it open for Taylor to drop-step and score.”

The win provides a rematch for Garrett and Leo. Earlier in the season, the Railroaders prevailed 57-50, but the teams are also familiar with playing each other in the ACAC Tournament.

Last year, Leo beat Garrett in the first round of the ACAC Tournament, and this will be the fourth straight tournament the two teams have played each other. It is also the third time in four years the two teams will meet in the finals, with one of the two teams winning the tournament the past five seasons.

“These two programs have been here a lot,” Lapadot said. “We feel like this is the way it ought to be; the way we always picture it. We hope we are going to be here, and we just assume Leo will too.”

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