Severna Park is running right along Falcons' new mix recipe for winning

January 25, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

You won't find a Division I prospect on the Severna Park girls basketball team. You won't find anyone averaging more than eight points a game. And you won't find one of its better players, junior Jen Conner, for three to six weeks because of knee and ankle injuries.

So, how is it that you also won't find many losses on the Falcons' record?

"Attitude" is a popular explanation given by Severna Park's players and their coach, Kevin McGrath, for the team's surprising 10-2 record.

"Last year, I thought they could have done a lot better," said McGrath, thinking back to a 9-14 season that included some player dissension and more headaches than the coach can count. "We corrected some of the problems, and everything has been running along pretty well."

Amy Carnaggio, a senior point guard, said: "Attitude is the difference. Some of the players didn't come out that were on the team last year, and we're doing a different system of subbing, finally. We're not going five in, five off, like we did last year. He's giving more playing time to the people that should be on the court.

"Not only has the kids' attitude changed, but so has his."

McGrath has been criticized in the past -- especially last year -- by some players and parents for frequent substituting during games. He's still going deep into his bench, but "we're doing it more subtly," he said.

"We're putting one or two in, giving a kid a rest and then putting that kid back on the court and giving somebody else a rest. They're seeing it as a big difference, and it really isn't. If they want to see it as a big change and it's helping them, that's fine with me. Everyone seems happy, and that makes my job easier."

The Falcons' versatility seems improved, too. McGrath starts three players -- Carnaggio, Kate Marks and Erin McNeally -- who can handle the point-guard duties. He has guards who can play forward, forwards who can move to center, and centers who can move to the backcourt.

He also has "more of an inside game than I've ever had," and enough balance to get scoring both in the lane and around the three-point arc.

"We have a much better mix this year," McGrath said. "And we're a bigger club. Brandee Snyder [a 5-foot-11 senior] was a low-post player last year, and now she's like a swingman."

The Falcons won their first four games, at home, against non-county foes, before running into a buzz saw at the Holly & Hoops Tournament at Essex Community College. They struggled just to get the ball past midcourt in an 88-50 shelling by Governor Mifflin (Pa.) and lost to Clifford Scott (N.J.), 46-34, in the consolation round.

The two games may have bruised Severna Park's record, but they didn't hurt its confidence.

"It didn't affect us at all," Carnaggio said. "I guess we knew that wasn't going to count against us toward the state [playoff points] anyway."

What followed were six consecutive wins, starting with a 50-39 victory at Arundel, which had just swept two games in its holiday tournament. If there was a turning point to Severna Park's season, that was it. "Winning there had to help a bit," McGrath said.

The groundwork for this year's resurgence was laid toward the end of last season, when McGrath brought up post players Sandy Jenkin and Jenny Hatch and guard Kathy McCafferty. "They're not starting, but they're playing major roles," McGrath said. "Jenkin has been our leading scorer twice, Hatch gives us additional height and McCafferty is one of the quickest girls we have. She's doing a nice job on the perimeter and defensively."

Amy Patton, a transfer from Laurel, has proven to be a steady outside shooter and another welcome addition. And like the other Falcons, she can play more than one position.

None of them will score consistently in double figures, however. Carnaggio and 6-foot senior center Kris Drapalski are the Falcons' leading scorers at around eight points a game. College scouts aren't tripping over themselves to get a look at Severna Park's players. All this team does is win.

"We had a lot of talent last year, but we just couldn't pull it together. I knew we could do it this year," Drapalski said. "We're pretty balanced."

And much happier.

"Morale's up," McGrath said. "These kids are really pulling for each other. We haven't had some of the problems we had last year. It's been a lot smoother."

Carnaggio said: "We're on such a high with this winning streak that everyone is giving it their all. This has been the best record for us in a while. Nobody wants to lose that."

Severna Park has games against Northeast, South River and Chesapeake before the first of two meetings with Old Mill, the two-time defending Class 4A state champions, on Feb. 5.

"This will be the first time we're going to go in with some kids who are close to being [Old Mill's] height," McGrath said. "When you look at the comparative scores, they can't be touched. We're trying to enjoy these one at a time right now. We can wait on that for a while."

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