Harford CC basketball turns corner In just four years, women's program is transformed

January 31, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

A 6 a.m. practice was indicative of just how far the women's basketball program has come in the past four years at Harford Community College.

It has gone from a club team to having three former All-County high school players in the starting lineup.

When the Owls defeated visiting Anne Arundel CC last week, 76-66, it raised their record to 9-3, including 8-2 against Maryland junior college teams.

"That first year we brought the program back was terrible," said Hal Blevins, who has coached the renaissance effort. "We won nine games as a club team, but that didn't mean much since I thought we were a little better the next year when the record was 6-12.

"Last year we were 10-9 and went to the Maryland JuCo tournament. That was [athletic director] Jack Nichols' idea. It showed support for what we were trying to do, and he felt we needed that exposure.

"For this year, we knew we had a shot at the top girls in the county, even ones that were talking about four-year schools, and for us, that was unusual. It's becoming more of a trend, I think -- kids want to stay close to home, and get into a [sports] program where they have a chance to play."

Sophomore Christine Warfield can attest to that. An All-County choice at Aberdeen High School, she went to Millersville University, but she didn't see much basketball playing time, and she returned home.

"Coach Blevins was interested when I was in high school, and I knew I could come and play," Warfield said. A 5-foot-7 shooting guard, she made 22 three-point goals and averaged 14 points, and shot 72 per cent from the foul line last year. With a better supporting cast this season, she is averaging 8.5 points.

Two members of that cast are 1992 All-County players Natrease Hamilton (Have de Grace) and Carie James (North Harford). James, a 5-10 forward, averages 13 points and eight rebounds, and Hamilton, a 5-11 point guard, 11.8 points and seven rebounds. Both shoot 70 percent from the foul line.

The other regulars are sophomore Lisa Dougherty (Fallston) and freshman Danielle Rivas (C Milton Wright).

Completing the squad are sophomores Cathy DeRan (North Harford) and Stephanie Rivas (C. Milton Wright), Danielle's older sister who did not play last year, and freshmen Shannon Bracken (North Harford), Nicole Lauer (Fallston), and Molly Marshall (Fallston).

From high school opponents, the players have come together as college friends, and now they say, "If there's a problem, or there's something wrong, we help each other."

One of the popular sports terms of the day is "focus," and it applies to two of the newcomers.

In preparing Hamilton, who was a do-everything player for Havre de Grace last year, for future college play if she wants it, Blevins has installed her as the point guard and it has been a tough learning process.

In preparing Hamilton for future college play, Blevins has installed her at point guard. It has been a tough learning process for a player who did everything for Havre de Grace last season.

"I have to stay focused all the time. When I don't, I mess up," she said.

Blevins said he knew she could score and pass, but admits it has taken awhile to adjust to calling the plays, and recognizing what to do in certain situations.

"It's when I try to force the ball inside or don't keep everybody involved that we get in trouble," Hamilton said.

For James, the focus had to come in her academics. "When I first got here, sometimes I'd forget where the classroom was. I discovered the teachers care about their classes, but if you want help, you have to ask for it," she said.

"I played field hockey in the fall, and if it weren't for my coach [Judy Davlin, field hockey coach and assistant women's

basketball coach], I wouldn't have made it. She'd call me about HTC homework, check to be sure I went to class, that sort of thing.

"There was only one day off between field hockey and basketball, and I think starting over with a new sport made a difference for me. It helped me get going with my classes."

This season, Blevins finally can say the program has reached the point where it is competitive.

"The players have all improved since the beginning of the season, and that's due to hard work on their part. They are making the sacrifice it takes to be successful," he said.

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