Contenders set sights on 3-time champ Old Mill

December 06, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

The phrase "four-peat" isn't being heard much at Old Mill these days.

True, the Patriots are gunning for a fourth consecutive Class 4A state championship, but the loss of four starters -- including two first-team All-Metro selections -- doesn't make them the prohibitive favorite this year.

And rivals like Chesapeake's Dennis Thiele, last year's Baltimore Sun Girls Basketball Coach of the Year for Anne Arundel County, figure it's about time.

"They're in the same position my softball team is going to be in this spring after losing seven of nine starters. We'll be rebuilding and everyone else will be happy about that," he said. "Old Mill will still be strong, but teams have a better chance of running with them on the floor. I don't think you'll see 30-, 40-, 50-point deficits this year."

Can Old Mill overcome the odds and again compete for a state title? Or will Annapolis, under new coach Dave Griffith, take advantage of its wealth of talent and experience and unseat the Patriots? How about Chesapeake, which returns all but one player? Or perhaps someone else will emerge to take Old Mill's place.

"You play teams twice and there could be a lot of splitting going on," Thiele said. "It's going to be more even in Anne Arundel County. We'll be beating each other up."

The following is a closer look at the county's 12 public school girls basketball teams, along with private schools Archbishop Spalding, Severn and St. Mary's:

Annapolis

The only real change at Annapolis this year will be seen on the bench, where Teresa Ross used to reside. She left after three seasons as coach, and Griffith, her former assistant, will try to keep the Panthers headed in the right direction.

That shouldn't be difficult. Last season, Annapolis went 19-6 and reached the Class 4A, Region IV final despite not having any seniors. That means everyone returns this fall, and the Panthers have been thrust into the role of favorites.

"They kind of have to be the front-runner," said Severna Park coach Kevin McGrath.

Other coaches are saying the same thing, but Griffith replies: "I don't necessarily agree with them, but we'll be good. If everything goes the way it should, I think we've got a lot to be excited about."

One sound reason is 6-foot-1 senior center Shannon Henderson, a second-team All-Metro selection who can dominate games with her rebounding and inside scoring. Last year, she led the Panthers with 18.8 points and 12.2 rebounds a game. She also averaged two blocks, two assists and three steals, and shot 47 percent from the field.

The team won't rely solely on Henderson, though. The backcourt includes 5-6 senior Cristi Samaras, a second-team All-County guard who led the team in steals and assists. Samaras, 5-7 senior Janelle Queen and 5-5 junior Emily Nugent all can play the point or shooting guard. Queen most likely will start at small forward, however.

The lineup also will include 5-7 sophomore forward Stephanie Samaras.

Also returning from last season are 5-6 junior guard Artina Trader, 5-6 sophomore forward Ginny Dauses, 5-6 junior guard Tia Brown and 5-7 senior forward Aleks Rhines. Trader is making a strong push for a starting berth, though Griffith probably will bring her off the bench. Either way, she will see plenty of minutes.

Three newcomers should make the team, led by 5-4 senior forward Kiva Henderson, "a real physical and strong player underneath," Griffith said. But Henderson won't be available for a couple of weeks because of an injured ankle. Freshmen Kristin Kapusta (5-5 guard) and Meredith Stewart (5-7 forward) also have joined the varsity.

Griffith said there won't be major changes in his first year as coach, except that "we'll try to pick up the tempo a little bit. Otherwise, things will be the same."

Annapolis' first game is Thursday against Westminster. The Panthers also play Severna Park, Old Mill and St. Mary's before Christmas, so they will be tested early and often.

Archbishop Spalding

Kristie Lilly is being put to the test in her first year as coach at Archbishop Spalding.

The team lost six players to graduation, and two others didn't come out this year. A young team just got younger.

And Lilly's job just got tougher.

Gone is guard Amy Langville, the Catholic League's and the Baltimore Sun for Anne Arundel County's Player of the Year. She led Spalding in every category and was named to the All-Metro first team.

Guard Kelly Mabe also graduated, and Lilly is left with a roster that includes six sophomores and one freshman. Only four players return, and three of them are sophomores.

"We have a lot of talent, and hopefully, we can put it all together and come through with a pretty good season. We just need to make up for our inexperience and youth, and we'll be OK," said Lilly, a former player at Glenelg and Johns Hopkins who replaces Paul Leimkuhler.

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