Arundel hoping to double basketball championship pleasure

March 09, 1995|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

As forward Jen Mottar accepted congratulations last week for two free throws that helped Arundel edge Severna Park in the Class 4A East Region final, she was asked how the Wildcats stayed immune to the pressure of being undefeated and kept winning close games.

"This team has a lot of heart," she said.

And a lot of victories -- 24, to be exact -- heading into today's 3 p.m. game against third-seeded Montgomery Blair in the 4A state semifinals at UMBC.

From there, the No. 3 Wildcats will travel to Cole Field House in College Park to watch the Arundel boys play second-seeded and No. 1 Lake Clifton at 7 p.m. in their 4A state semifinal.

This has been a glorious season at the Gambrills school. The boys, seeded third and ranked No. 4, haven't been to the states in 20 years. The girls, seeded second, are making their first appearance.

Girls coach Lee Rogers headed the boys program until six years ago, when he turned it over to his assistant, Gerald Moore.

"It's been a struggle for the past six years for both of us," Rogers said, "and now we both finally make it at the same time. I guess it's ironic. I think it's good that all the work we've put in has come to the top at the same time."

Blair (22-2) and Arundel each have a multi-talented player.

Arundel junior Chavonne Hammond, a 5-foot-11 forward, is averaging close to 17 points and 15 rebounds. She also leads the team in blocked shots (124) and is second in steals (83). Blair counters with 5-11 junior Peppi Browne, who is averaging 13 points, nine rebounds and 3.1 assists, and also leads the team in blocks (52) and steals (120).

"I could easily say we're not a one-girl team," Lindsey said, "but most people who have seen us know she's the glue. As she goes, a lot of times, we go."

Both teams have an underrated player who takes some of the pressure off their stars.

Mottar, a 5-9 junior, is averaging 10.9 points and 12.1 rebounds, and has made 109 steals. "She is a sleeper and people overlook her because of Chavonne. She does the intangible things," Rogers said.

Blair's Beverly Laryea, a 5-6 senior, is good for 12 points and slightly more than three rebounds a game, and has made 50 steals. No one else on the team is averaging more than 5.2 points, but Lindsey said, "We have a lot of depth."

This is the Blazers' fourth trip to the state tournament, and first in five years. They won it in 1982.

For senior-less Arundel, the experience is new, but undaunting, even for its three freshmen. To make sure his players aren't intimidated by the size of UMBC's gymnasium, Rogers has taken them to Anne Arundel Community College for practices and a scrimmage with Wilde Lake, allowing them to get a feel for a bigger court.

"Nobody believes they're underclassmen. They don't play like it," said Rogers, whose team is averaging 61.5 points and allowing 31.8. "The practices have been loose. We're taking it in stride. We're here and we're going to do the best we can. They have a good program. They've been established for a long time, so we're going to have our hands full. We know that. But we're mentally prepared to play basketball."

Among the keys for today's game, Rogers said, is patience on offense.

The Arundel boys (21-3), who also have practiced at AACC, must do the same if they have a chance to knock off Lake Clifton (21-1), a team loaded with Division I talent.

The Lakers bring the best player into the tournament -- 5-4 senior guard Shawnta Rogers, who is averaging 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 9.7 assists and 4.4 steals. His supporting cast includes 6-0 senior Ronald Byrd (15.2 ppg), 6-7 senior Guy Butler (12.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and 6-5 senior Reginald Frazier (11.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg).

Though the Lakers have stayed atop the metro rankings all season, there have been plenty of challenges. Walbrook took them into overtime before losing, 108-94. Southern-B, the defending 4A state champions, lost twice by a combined four points. Severn was beaten by two in its Christmas tournament. Edmondson came within eight points, Walbrook seven.

"Sometimes, it has not been pretty, but we got it done," Lakers coach Charlie Moore said. "This is our first time in the states and we hope to be ready. But even if we don't win it, we've had a very special year."

It's been a magnificent year for Arundel's Bakari Ward, who is averaging 22.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists. He also has made 86 steals and blocked 16 shots.

The 5-9 senior, who has scored 1,002 points in two seasons at Arundel after transferring from Severna Park, will be matched up with Rogers whenever the Wildcats go to a man-to-man defense. Marquise Farmer (14.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg), a 6-5 senior, will try to keep Butler off the boards.

But attention should be paid to how the other starters -- 6-3 senior Kevin Higgins (15.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 7.8 apg, 83 steals), 6-0 senior Mitchell Martin (5.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 6-4 senior Sean Fairbanks (6.7 ppg, 6.0 rebounds) -- fare.

"We respect them, but we haven't had it easy," Gerald Moore said. "We've had to pull out some tight games, so we're very confident. If we had breezed into the final four, we'd be a little nervous. But we're not. We've played hard before."

The Wildcats have won 11 in a row. Two more, and the program will have its first state title since 1965. This is its eighth appearance.

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