Joppatowne girls basketball coach Kathy Wunderlich knew that her inexperienced squad needed confidence more than anything else. So she scheduled her early-season non-league games with that in mind.
The Mariners responded by going undefeated through their first five games.Although they stumbled once they hit county league powers Fallston, North Harford and C. Milton Wright, the Mariners still have a winningrecord.
A 28-20 win over Havre de Grace Thursday afternoon puts the Mariners at 7-3 (2-3 in Harford County). They ensured an improvement on last year's 4-17 record in December.
"We've won more games this yearthan in the other three years I've coached," Wunderlich said. "My goal at the beginning of the season was to have a .500 season."
Withonly two experienced players, Thori Staples and Kelly Prior, back from last year, the Mariners started inexperienced. The victory over Havre de Grace showed how far they've come.
Last year, the Warriors knocked Joppatowne out of the Class 1A regional playoffs, 34-26, so the Mariners had plenty of incentive.
Although this year's Warriorssquad had a distinct height advantage, the Mariners still managed todominate the boards and penetrate the lane. Joppatowne outrebounded the Warriors, 50-40, with a balanced effort. Staples, a 5-foot-7 junior, scored eight of her 12 points on driving layups.
The Mariners got a lot of points off their transition game as Havre de Grace turned the ball over 19 times. The Warriors (3-6, 1-4 league) had a lot oftrouble with Joppatowne's constant pressure on the ball, forcing passes and throwing the ball away.
During a critical nine-minute period in the second half, the Warriors turned the ball over 10 times anddidn't score a point. Joppatowne rallied to take a 17-13 lead.
Staples' layup and Kendra Meggett's follow shot brought the Mariners within 13-12 with 1:56 left in the third quarter. Loreal Russell hit one of two foul shots to tie it at 13 going into the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Joppatowne came out in its fullcourt press. Dionna Bishop hit a follow shot to give the Mariners their first lead since the game's first basket. Staples scored on a driving layup to put the Mariners ahead, 17-13.
Havre de Grace's 6-0 center Nitrease Hamilton hit two free throws to pull the Warriors back within two. But the Warriors turned the ball over, and Staples drove for another layup.
Trusha Sheppard hit two more free throws for the Warriors, but then the Mariners started to pull away. Staples hit Meggett, a 5-8 sophomore forward, for three layups and Hamilton added a free throw as the Mariners took a 25-18 lead.
"Our offense caused their layups," said Warriors coach Sheilah Collins. "We didn't play very well. Our defense was fine when we got to play it, but we were in transition most of the time."
Hamilton scored on a layup,
but the Warriors got no closer than 25-20.
In the final quarter, Joppatowne put 15 points on the board after scoring just 13 in the first three quarters.
"Our offense mainly comes from our defense," said Staples.
"We thought we'd use our quickness to go over their height if we played good defense."
The Mariners, who played quick defense even when theWarriors slowed things down, held Hamilton to 12 points and 12 rebounds. The junior had been averaging 17.8 points and 18.6 rebounds. Only three Warriors scored. Karen Romanelli and Sheppard added four points each.
The Warriors also had trouble sinking even high-percentage shots, as they hit only two of 26 second-half attempts. "We couldn't buy one in the fourth quarter," Collins said. "If we had a nickel for every one that rolled around and came out, we'd be rich."