Losses take load off No. 2 Arundel Turning it around: After their second tough defeat of the season the Wildcats have won three straight.

January 14, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

The victory celebrations were being planned long before the Arundel girls basketball team ever stepped on the court this season.

After all, very few 25-1 teams ever have the luxury of having every player back for the next season.

When one of those players is Chavonne Hammond, a preseason All-America who has already received a scholarship to play at Vanderbilt, the expectations are immense.

It was natural to assume the Wildcats might take the school's first girls state 4A championship and go unbeaten.

That was all on paper.

Going out and winning the games has been a different story for second-ranked Arundel (8-2), which had its unbeaten hopes squashed in the second game of the season by top-ranked Seton Keough.

And the injury jinx hit senior standout Jen Mottar in the first game of the season and Hammond in the fifth game.

Mottar, who averaged 10 points and 13.5 rebounds last season, dislocated the index finger on her left hand against Oakland Mills and missed the Seton Keough game and two others.

Even though she has been back for six games, coach Lee Rogers said Mottar isn't 100 percent.

Hammond has been playing hurt since a fall against Coolidge in the semis of the IAABO tournament and the plans now are for her to play the rest of the season with a brace on her right knee.

The brace, which Hammond wore for the first time Jan. 5 in a 56-20 victory over Broadneck, is to support torn cartilage in the knee.

"The doctors say the injury is not athletic threatening and won't get any worse by playing on it," said Rogers. "She can have it scoped at the end of the season. It's just a matter of dealing with the pain. It stiffens up on her when she stops playing in a game."

Rogers said he had noticed that Hammond was "landing differently" on the knee in recent games but "she didn't tell anybody she was hurt."

"She was afraid it was an ACL [torn anterior cruciate ligament] JTC and didn't want to say anything for fear of being out for the season," said Rogers. "But she got hit on the knee again and we found out it was torn cartilage."

In games against Annapolis and Broadneck since the knee injury was diagnosed, Hammond has scored 43 points, hitting 23 of 31 at the free-throw line.

She had eight rebounds, six steals and four blocks against the Bruins while wearing the brace.

So maybe the bad luck has ended for Arundel, which also lost (44-40) to Elizabeth Seton of Bladensburg, the top-ranked team in the Washington metro area.

"The kids thought they had to win every game," said Rogers. "With two losses, the pressure is off now. Anyway, this is a different type of team from last year. The girls have different roles."

Not to mention a tougher schedule that had the Wildcats meeting perennial state power Elizabeth Seton in the championship game of the IAABO Christmas tournament.

Since that setback to Elizabeth Seton, Arundel has won three straight and is 4-0 in the South Division of Anne Arundel County.

"We're starting to come together," said Rogers. "It's all about confidence. You never like losing but we can live with what has happened."

Losses to the No. 1 team in Baltimore and the top team in Washington aren't anything to be ashamed of. Especially because Mottar missed the Keough game and was below par against Elizabeth Seton.

Through it all, Rogers has made sure he doesn't take any short cuts that would hurt the confidence of his young players.

Gifted freshman Megan Rollins, a 5-4 guard, is an example of Rogers' patience.

She burst onto the scene with a 10-point fourth-quarter performance against Elizabeth Seton but Rogers has not rushed her into the starting lineup.

"I don't want to put pressure on Megan," said Rogers. "She's contributing and being groomed to play for us just like Sherice [Proctor, starting sophomore point guard] was as a freshman."

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