Kelbaugh steps up for Liberty

February 12, 1993|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Contributing Writer

The ball hit the floor and, moments later, so did Katie Kelbaugh.

Kelbaugh, a starting forward for Liberty, dove to the ground, threw her arms around the Thomas Johnson player and tied her up. Jump ball. Possession to Liberty.

"She does that a lot," said Amy Wolff, Liberty's top scorer. "She's probably one of the most aggressive players we have."

Kelbaugh, a 5-foot-7 senior, does a lot of the so-called dirty work for Liberty. She dives for the loose balls, sets picks, boxes out and plays tough defense -- all vital to the Lions' success.

Liberty coach Tom Delise said the work of Kelbaugh, now in her third varsity season, lifts the team. "She's a real inspiration," said Delise. "She's like a Billy Ripken type."

In the Lions' overtime loss to Thomas Johnson on Tuesday, foexample, Kelbaugh still was chasing loose balls in the final minute, even though the Lions trailed by 10.

"I won't back down," said Kelbaugh. "I don't care how tired I am. I just can't."

Kelbaugh said her penchant for hustling comes from insecurity. She said she doesn't feel she contributes enough on offense and wants to make up for it by helping in other ways.

Delise and Kelbaugh agree that the senior has stepped up her game in the past year.

Kelbaugh said improving her shot and working on things such as boxing out were her biggest goals after last season.

She worked on these and other things at a basketball camp the Liberty team went to at Hampton-Sydney last summer. Kelbaugh also practiced them on her own.

Kelbaugh slowly is gaining confidence in her shot as the season progresses -- a confidence she lacked last season.

"My shot was totally out of it last year," Kelbaugh said.

Her shot is an interesting one, a type of set shot not unlike those popular in the 1950s. She'll get set and fire what looks like a two-handed push shot.

Kelbaugh said she didn't trust her shot last season. This season, she does not fear shooting in a clutch situation.

She proved that against Thomas Johnson. During the third quarter of the Lions' 50-40 overtime loss, Kelbaugh missed a 15-foot shot. By a lot. It flew right over the rim and hit the floor.

The Lions got the offensive rebound, though, and the ball came back to Kelbaugh once more. This time she swished a 10-footer that gave Liberty a lead it held until Thomas Johnson took control in overtime.

"My offense has improved a lot," said Kelbaugh. "My whole game's improved a lot."

Delise agreed, saying she has done well defensively and with the "little things." He praised her for working hard and playing tough.

What makes her improvement even more impressive, said Delise, is the string of injuries she has needed to overcome.

She suffered a stress fracture of the shin during the sophomore year. Last year, Kelbaugh struggled with a broken big toe.

During the past soccer season, she broke her nose during the regional playoffs. Kelbaugh has played with that during the entire basketball season, with surgery set for next month.

In addition, she sometimes suffers from problems with her hips, something she has had her entire life.

As much as she enjoys basketball, soccer is her first love. The Liberty stopper made first-team All-Carroll County last fall and second-team All-Central Maryland Conference during the final year of her three-year varsity career.

Kelbaugh, who said she wants to be a pharmacist, said hard work is her prescription for success.

"If I push myself, other people might push themselves a little more," said Kelbaugh.

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