Freshman quietly breaks record Best free-throw shooter: Maria Smear's 77 percent shooting from the line this season set a St. Mary's mark.

March 07, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Maria Smear could be forgiven if every once in a while she decided to boast just a little about her freshman season for the 27-2 St. Mary's girls basketball team.

The 14-year-old might even want to brag a tad about her father, Steve, who was a second-team All-America linebacker at Penn State in 1969.

But that is far from her style.

She prefers to blend into the background off the court and remain as inconspicuous as possible on the court. Of course, it's pretty hard hiding when you have already broken the school single-season free-throw shooting record without ever starting a game.

She will get her first start of the season today at 4 p.m. when third-ranked St. Mary's meets Towson Catholic in the opening round of the Bishop Walsh Invitational in Cumberland.

"I'm really excited about that," she said, although she has accepted her relief role without complaint.

Smear hit 60 of 78 from the line this season for 77 percent, bettering the 71 percent mark set by St. Mary's coach Harry Dobson's daughter Linda, in 1989. After watching Smear seven points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals in just 18 minutes of playing time a game, it's apparent many more records could fall before she is through.

The 5-foot-8 guard/forward is a natural athlete who almost always seems to be in the right place at the right time on the court.

Dobson is especially impressed by Smear's ability to perform under pressure and loves her defensive intensity.

"I want her on the court at the end of the game because she plays best under pressure," said Dobson. "She must have hit 40 of her 60 free throws in the fourth quarter, winning three games with her foul shooting. I've told our players many times, it's not who starts a game that's important but who's on the court at the end."

The most important one of those three wins came Feb. 14 over then-No. 1 Seton Keough when Smear hit 10 of 10 from the line in the fourth quarter in a 52-39 win.

She also hit four in the fourth quarter to beat Mercy, 64-58, and two in overtime to turn back Pulaski (Va.), 60-56.

Did anyone expect less from a girl who has been winning free-throw shooting contests since she was 10 and is the daughter of a man who played college football at Penn State?

"I know how hard you have to work to reach your goals," said Steve Smear, who also played six years in the Canadian Football League and won a Grey Cup with the Montreal Alouettes in 1970. "I try to tell Maria to work hard, keep her feet on the ground, her grades up and everything will work out for her. I know she doesn't think I care about her as a person because I'm always complaining about her athletically, but I'm more proud of her as a person than an athlete. She's a great kid."

That pride stems from Maria having two A-plusses and two As in the four courses she took last semester and the way she conducts her life every day.

"I think Maria, my son Matt [a sophomore at Duke after playing football at Annapolis High] and my daughter Amanda [12 year-old sixth grader who has already sung the national anthem at a Baysox game and acts regularly in plays] appreciate so much what they've been given in life because we have a son [Chris, 18] who is severely autistic," said Steve Smear.

Maria Smear admitted it is sometimes tough listening to her dad "focus on the bad things instead of the good" but she wants to play basketball in college.

Maria Smear will certainly have a better opportunity to improve her talents this weekend in the eight-team Bishop Walsh Invitational that also includes second-ranked Seton Keough, always-powerful Elizabeth Seton of Bladensburg, John J. Hallihan of Philadelphia, St. Frances of Baltimore, host Bishop Walsh, St. John's of Washington and Towson Catholic.

Pub Date: 3/07/96

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