By Nelson Coffin
Between them, Jim Stromberg and Chuck Miller have captured seven IAAM basketball championships.
Miller, a former FBI agent who started dealing with X’s and O’s after retiring from law enforcement, won five B Conference titles at Severn while Stromberg earned an A Conference crown at Seton Keough and a B Conference banner at St. Paul’s School for Girls.
Both head other programs now.
Miller is in his second year at B Conference member St. Mary’s and Stromberg took over the reins at C Conference Catholic High this season.
Their teams met in the season opener Tuesday evening in northeast Baltimore with Stromberg’s Cubs winning, 46-37.
The Saints grabbed an early 8-3 advantage on back-to-back buckets by senior center Whitney Albert, although Catholic caught up and inched ahead on consecutive three-pointers by junior guard Meghan Brandt and freshman Sanai James in the second period.
St. Mary’s managed to tie the score at 16-all with 10 seconds left in the half on a pretty runner by Albert until senior point guard Nie-Nie Jones put the Cubs back on top with a buzzer-beater.
Stromberg’s club went on a 6-0 run to open the second half on a basket by Brandt and two more by junior forward Madison Liggett before the Saints answered in kind on an Albert layup off an inbounds pass from Maggie Aumiller, a stick-back by Karry Kelliher and a hook in the paint by Albert.
However, James came though with a clutch three-ball with 1:35 left in the third period and Liggett nailed a pair of free throws to make it 31-24 heading into the final quarter.
The Saints never got closer that four points the rest of the way, thanks to Jones’ deft ball handling skills and some good could shooting by the Cubs — they went 5-for-6 — down the stretch by senior guard Kate Walz and Liggett.
Miller, who is familiar with the peaks and valleys all teams go through during the season, said that he liked the effort he saw from his team.
“The kids hustled up and down the floor,” he said. “But you can’t turn the ball over more than 30 times like we did. And we couldn’t buy a basket.”
Stromberg said that seniors Jones, Walz and forward Brooke Mosca keyed the victory.
He was especially pleased with a charge Mosca took down the stretch to blunt St. Mary’s comeback bid.
“That’s senior leadership,” he said. “They really set the tone, and they come to practice every day ready to work hard.”
Both squads will have a week to prepare for their next games on Dec. 4 — Catholic at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Mary’s at St. Stephen/St. Agnes.