Northeast knows how to size up opposition

December 21, 1992|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

They've won by wide margins and by the skin of their teeth. At home and on the road. In four quarters and in seven.

No matter the circumstances or method, the Northeast Eagles are winning. And that seemed to be an unlikely scenario at the beginning of the season.

The Eagles, remember, lost one of Anne Arundel County's best players in 6-foot center Debbi Dadds, who graduated after leading the team in scoring and rebounding last year. She took away important statistics and most of their height, but not their desire to succeed.

"I didn't think we'd be a bad team," said coach Calvin Vain, "but I didn't know how good we'd be, how we'd match up and how long it would take to be effective."

Not long at all.

With four sophomores in the starting lineup -- and five players on the roster who are 5-3 or smaller -- Class 2A Northeast opened the season with a 54-43 win over Glen Burnie. That began a streak of three straight victories against 4A schools, including 71-39 and 57-53 decisions over Queen Anne's and North County, respectively.

Then came the showdown with South River on Tuesday, when Northeast needed three overtimes to prevail, 88-85. Like in the North County game, the Eagles rallied from a large halftime deficit -- this time 43-22.

"They're surprising people who don't realize that they have experience in high-level games," said Vain, whose team had its four-game winning streak ended by Arundel, 60-38, on Friday.

"The girls on the soccer team were in the playoffs, and they've been together as a group in [recreation] games, so they know each other real well. They have confidence in their skills, their dribbling and their passing."

Unlike in recent years, Vain is using most -- and sometimes all -- of his bench. A group effort has never been more necessary.

"We've played all 10 girls in some games, and a lot of times, eight," hesaid. "We had 30 points against South River from people coming in who weren't starters.

L "They're all feisty little players who can score on drives."

So far, the best has been 5-3 sophomore guard Jen Johansen, who leads the team in scoring with 21 points a game. She had 35 against South River, including four three-pointers.

"We're good outside shooters and we run the whole game, and that tires out people in the second half," said Johansen, a second-team All-County selection last year after averaging 14 points.

Two other sophomores, Jaime Pleyo and Maleah Rey, are averaging a combined 27 points a game.

Pleyo had 17 points against North County and 16 against South River, and Rey had 19 against North County, including five three-pointers.

The tallest Eagle is 5-10 senior Jen Delsignore, who has replaced Dadds after sitting on the bench for most of last season. She's a rare commodity this year -- an upperclassman with height.

"I try to keep everybody's spirits up when we're down in the first half," she said. "At halftime, we get ourselves together and we're determined during the second half that we're going to win this game. We put all our effort into making as many shots as we possibly can."

They couldn't make enough of them on Friday. Arundel (2-2) played its best game of the season, and the Eagles couldn't keep up. But they'll happily take a 4-1 record into next week's Noel Classic at Archbishop Spalding.

With so many guards on the roster this year, Vain had to take a different approach.

"I like scrappy defense and playing a lot of man-to-man," he said before the season. "In other years, with so many big people, it was hard to play that way."

Now, he has no choice.

"The other thing that's showing is, we run the same pace in the third and fourth quarter. A lot of times, teams have lost to us in the third and fourth quarters."

Teams losing to Northeast this year? It wasn't supposed to be this way.

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