Eagles' Briggs keeps finding herself on the spot

January 08, 1995|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

The players and coaches sitting on Northeast's bench shared the same thought as they watched junior Kristin Briggs at the free-throw line in a game last month at McDonough in Charles County.

Two seconds remained, the score was tied and the outcome rested with Briggs.

"We were wondering, 'What do you think she's thinking right now,' " said Eagles coach Calvin Vain, smiling. "There she is again, stuck in a shooting situation."

Just like last year's Class 2A East Region final against South River, except in that instance, the Eagles were down by two and Briggs had three free throws coming after being fouled by Seahawks guard Jess Marion while attempting a three-pointer.

"I was shaking," said Briggs, who had scored 21 points in a 70-68 victory over Wicomico a couple of days earlier.

With part of the crowd at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills sitting in nervous silence, and others trying to rattle her by stomping their feet and screaming, Briggs sank the first one to reduce South River's lead to 62-61. But her next two shots bounced off the rim.

Northeast's hopes of advancing to the state tournament had ended, but for Briggs, the pain was just beginning. She cried in the hallway outside the gymnasium, and nothing Vain or her teammates said at that moment could provide comfort.

"Her initial thing was she could have won the game, but I can recollect 10 things that happened before that," Vain said. "I told her she really couldn't worry about it. It truly wasn't the play that cost us the game. We had let ourselves get into that position. And how many players go to the line and hit three?

"I wasn't thinking any negative thoughts when she missed them. I just felt sorry for her."

Said Briggs: "My mom was a real help. She was like, 'It just happened that you were there and it could have happened to anyone.' "

Vain wondered how Briggs would respond the next time she was placed in a similar situation, and he received his answer at McDonough. The 5-foot-3 point guard made the second free throw and Northeast won, 50-49.

Her heroics went beyond that last shot. She had made two free throws earlier in the quarter, and her steal led to the foul that put her on the line at the end.

The next day, she sank three of four free throws in the last minute of a 79-77 victory over Northern-Calvert, and Vain said, "If I had to pick a person to shoot them at the end, I'd probably pick Kristin."

Going into Tuesday's game against Glen Burnie, she is averaging around 13 points, six assists and five steals. In her third year as a starter, Briggs is running Northeast's up-tempo offense to perfection, Vain said.

"We hardly ever work on breaking the press because of her skills at breaking it. She is perfect for this offense," Vain said. "You don't want somebody who's going to work [the ball] left and right and get into having to pass it, and get it back. You want somebody who can get it to a certain spot so quick."

And Vain wants somebody like Briggs, 16, who understands and can carry out the other responsibilities of a point guard besides scoring, though she is a good shooter from beyond the arc.

"Some nights she knows she's got to get the ball more to Marcia [Gaskins], other nights she knows she's got to get it more to the wing guards, and other nights she knows it's wide open in the middle and she'll take it to the basket. She's about the most unselfish kid I've ever had," Vain said.

And one of the most athletic. Briggs plays soccer for the Eagles during the fall and for an under-19 team in the Washington Area Girls Soccer League during the summer, and will be taking part in her third spring sport at Northeast. She ran track two years ago, was a midfielder for the lacrosse team last season, and will play softball in a couple of months.

For now, her attention is focused on basketball. And when she goes to the line, her mind occasionally wanders back to Wye Mills.

"I think back to the first shot I made," she said, laughing, "and kind of blow off the other two."

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