Wilde Lake girls surprise team, winning with pressure defense

January 24, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

While watching Mount Hebron, Hammond and Howard compete for the county girls basketball championship, it's easy to miss the team that is becoming the season's most pleasant surprise.

With a 47-45 victory over Glenelg on Wednesday, Wilde Lake improved to 3-1 in the county, 6-3 overall.

No one is going to confuse Wilde Lake with Hebron, Howard or Hammond. But the Wildecats stand a good chance of landing a high seed in the Class 1A regional playoffs and of ending up at the top of the county's second division.

The Wildecats already have made great progress under second-year coach Kelly Rosati. Last year, Wilde Lake managed an 8-12 record during the regular season, including a 4-10 mark against the county.

Senior forward Tracy Stefan, a four-year player, continues to lead the Wildecats in scoring (11.6), rebounding (10.1) and free-throw shooting (64 percent). The Wildecats also are getting key contributions from their underclassmen. Sophomore forward Anika Middleton (5.3 points, 7.6 rebounds) has been effective inside. Sophomore point guard Kristen Riismandel (6.8 points, 6.1 steals, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds) has been everywhere.

The Wildecats' meal ticket has been pressure defense. Despite shooting just 29 percent, Wilde Lake has thrived by holding opponents to 37.1 points a game. Wednesday, it forced 32 turnovers against Glenelg.

Rosati credits the players for devoting more off-season time to basketball. She also credits some of her peers -- including Howard's Craig O'Connell and Hebron's Dave Greenberg -- for passing on some coaching tips.

Last year, for example, Rosati asked Greenberg if she could attend a midseason practice to pick up a few organizational pointers. Greenberg said yes.

"He [Greenberg] broke things down for me," Rosati said. "His practices are such a routine. The girls go like clockwork from one drill to the next. They hustle the whole time they are out there. My kids are doing that now, too."

Greenberg's charity has its limits.

Said Rosati: "He said he'll keep helping me until the games between us get close."

Eagles win at the line

Show me a team that makes its free throws, and I'll show you a winner. When Centennial's boys basketball team got off to a 7-2 start, the Eagles could point to their 73 percent foul shooting as a major reason for their success.

In their next two games, however, the Eagles struggled at the foul line, shooting 56 percent. They missed 19 of 39 foul shots, but escaped with a 53-50 overtime victory against Oakland Mills, then lost to Hammond, 60-59, partly because they missed 11 of 29 foul shots.

"I can see the warning signs coming. That's got to stop," Centennial coach Jim Hill said.

The Eagles still are shooting a solid 65.7 percent at the line. Mark James (75.6) and Mark Lee (70.0) are their leaders.

Speaking of the Eagles, if you're looking for an interesting game, they are a good bet. In its first four league games, Centennial lost two games by a combined three points and won two games

in overtime.

Problems at Oakland Mills

Speaking of free throws, Oakland Mills' percentage (70.0) looks great, but the 4-8 Scorpions have a problem. They never go to the line. Consider the difference between them and Centennial. In its first 12 games, Oakland Mills made 60 foul shots. In its first 11, Centennial made 211.

"That's not a commentary on the officiating. That's a commentary on our style of play," said Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby.

At least Michael Hill is doing his part. He has made 29 of 34 foul shots (85.3 percent), or nearly half of Oakland Mills' free throws. Then again, Hill has been Oakland Mills' top player all year, as well as the league's best new addition. He is averaging 17.1 points and 4.0 rebounds.

Despite the Scorpions' inexperience, lack of depth, inability to get to the foul line and an offense that averages 20 turnovers, they are hanging tough. Led by a tenacious defense that is giving up only 59.6 points a game, they split their first four county games. In their past three games, they are giving up an average of 49.0 points.

"I think we're going to play teams tough most nights. We may not win, but we're going to scare the hell out of them," Appleby

said. "We have the ability to out-ugly teams."

Encouraging signs at Glenelg

The season has been a struggle for the Glenelg wrestling team. After dropping a 56-10 decision to Hammond Thursday, the Gladiators fell to 0-9-1. But they have shown some encouraging signs, as next month's county tournament approaches.

Glenelg's best wrestler has been 160-pounder Shawn Chaconas. is 11-2 with six pins and a technical fall. He finished second in the Key Tournament and won the South River Tournament.

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