Barnes, Bishop provide spark as Joppatowne jumps out to fast start

January 23, 1994|By Mark Hoeflich | Mark Hoeflich,Contributing Writer

While 6-foot-1 sophomore center Brandi Barnes has been an imposing player under the basket for Joppatowne this season, senior guard Dionna Bishop has been the catalyst on defense. But together they represent the core of the talent that has the Mariners off and running.

Through the Mariners' first six games, Barnes has yet to be contained. Her 17.0-points-per-game average leads the team in scoring and ranks her among the area's best. Even more impressive is Barnes' rebound average (16.4), which ranks her third in the area.

All of this from a first-year starter who scored 27 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked four shots in an 80-30 drubbing of Rising Sun earlier this season.

"Before the season even started, I didn't want to play varsity because I didn't think my skills were good enough," Barnes said. "I still have a lot of improvement but I didn't think I was deserving to start."

Bishop also had career bests in the same game, finishing with 22 points, six assists and 15 steals.

Other than early scrimmages against Towson Catholic and Harford Christian -- in which Barnes held her own -- Joppatowne (5-1, 3-0) has yet to meet a match for Barnes. And inside the county, head coach Linette Shelley doesn't think there is one.

"I really don't think there is a match for her," said Shelley. "You usually don't find a player with all the qualities she has. There may be a player with more experience because she is still learning, but physically and the way she is playing, I don't see anyone being a problem for Brandi."

So while Barnes has provided the power inside, Bishop has supplied the extra punch from the perimeter. Her 12.4 average is second on the team and she is a major spark to the Mariners' transition game with an averages of 8.0 steals.

Most of Joppatowne's scoring comes off the fast break, and Bishop's anticipation and quickness on the defensive end make things happen. Even with her size, Barnes has been able to get down the court for easy baskets.

A four-year starter on varsity, Bishop hasn't always been comfortable taking the outside shot -- until this year -- and she said that Shelley has a lot to do with it.

"Over the years I couldn't get a set shot off, but this year whenever we pass the ball inside and it is passed back out, I'm usually open and the coach has given me the confidence to take the shot. The biggest surprise is that my points have been consistent," said Bishop.

Shelley said, "After spending a year watching her last year, I realized her offensive game didn't reflect the player she was. So this year we set goals for her and we worked on the skills that make her a better all-around player to the team."

Bishop, who is a member of the Junior Olympic team, is shooting about 56 percent from the field and that has a lot to do with Barnes, who has created more opportunities outside.

"Brandi gets so much attention inside getting double-teamed that when she passes the ball back out it opens everybody up to shoot," said Bishop.

Rebounding always has been Barnes' strength -- along with shot blocking -- just as Bishop always has been known for her aggressive defense. Both players have been playing basketball since about the same time -- Barnes the sixth grade, Bishop the seventh -- and Bishop admits that her strong play on defense is from playing with guys.

What has surprised Shelley the most is how Barnes has become a leader, a role Shelley expected from one of her four senior starters.

"Coming into the season, I knew I would help out, but since I play with a lot of intensity, I think that kind of lifted everybody up," said Barnes.

And with Joppatowne off to its best start in quite some time, it has earned some notice in the county and has the Mariners believing they can play with anybody.

"It is a well-balanced team and they are playing smart basketball," said Shelley. "We work on a lot of fundamentals and the seniors are finally starting to come through, but I still don't think they are aware of the potential they have."

Bishop agrees, "This year everyone knows what they can do but we have to prove to ourselves that we can do it. We've been one game away from the states the last two years and this year we would like to get there, but I know we haven't played to our full potential."

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