Perry Hall steps into higher league Leading the way: Getting to the state semifinals has given Linda Caccavalla's team and all of Baltimore County girls basketball a big lift.

March 07, 1996|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

While coaching in Long Island, N.Y., several years ago, Linda Caccavalla heard about the phenomenal success of Western High and legendary coach Breezy Bishop.

When Caccavalla moved to Baltimore and became coach at Perry Hall last year, she used Western's program as a model.

"When I came here, I knew the mystique of Western, and I told the kids I wanted to build a program like Western's, but that it would take time," Caccavalla said. "My personal dream was to beat Western. . . . some day. Another dream was to get in the state semifinals. . . . some day."

Just two years removed from a 5-14 season, Caccavalla's dreams have become reality. The 19th-ranked Gators (12-7) edged then-No. 19 Western, 58-57, in last week's Class 4A North Region final, and make their first appearance in the state semifinals today against Sherwood at UMBC at 5 p.m.

"I thought it would take three years at least to make the state semifinals," Caccavalla said. "I can't believe it came true already."

Caccavalla, who has led the Gators to a 29-13 record over the past two seasons, is keeping the victory over Western in perspective. She realizes the Doves (19-6) were young, and while they were talented they were not up to the caliber of past Western teams.

Nevertheless, Perry Hall's win gave Baltimore County teams -- long regarded as inferior to the city's top teams -- a major dose of credibility. It also further established the Gators under Caccavalla as one of the area's fastest-rising programs.

"Perry Hall girls basketball has never been anything until this year," said senior guard Bev Campbell, who hit the game-winning shot against Western with two seconds remaining. "We have a lot of potential, and even though a lot of people tried to knock us down, we had a point to prove."

The Gators took a significant step toward respectability last season when they were 17-6 and went to the regional semifinals.

It appeared questionable, however, whether Perry Hall could match that success this season with only one starter -- sophomore center Alyssa Phoebus -- returning. And that was before an outbreak of early-season injuries forced Caccavalla to overhaul her starting lineup. Still, Caccavalla was optimistic because Phoebus and junior forward Alisha McClinton came back this season as much-improved players after gaining AAU experience over the summer.

Phoebus has solidified the Gators' inside game and leads the team in scoring (16.0) and rebounding (14.9). She played especially well in the playoffs, including a 24-point, 18-rebound performance against Western.

McClinton averages 15.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.3 steals.

"They're my most consistent," Caccavalla said. "The rest plug in two to six points. It's always someone different who steps up."

The Gators will need others to step up today against Sherwood (23-1), the Class 4A state runner-up in 1994, which is making its ninth appearance in the states. "I think we can make it to the state finals if we play like we've been playing," Phoebus said. "When the regionals started, we figured we'd just have fun, do our best and see what happens. Now everyone wants to win really bad." Pub Date: 3/07/96

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