Catonsville CC makes good on all its preseason objectives Trip to national tourney was team's ultimate goal

March 17, 1996|By Mark Hoeflich | Mark Hoeflich,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Catonsville Community College's men's basketball team had everything planned from the outset of this season. Beat each of its rival schools. Get nationally ranked. Win both the Maryland and Region XX junior college tournaments. And ultimately advance to the national tournament.

It's one thing to put team goals into words, another to accomplish them.

Yet, with a 90-78 overtime victory over Baltimore City Community College in the regional finals two weeks ago, Catonsville completed everything it set out to do by earning its first-ever trip to the national tournament (March 21-23) in Danville, Ill.

In capturing its first Maryland JUCO championship, Catonsville also defeated BCCC, 87-82, and during the regular season Catonsville followed a decisive win over then-unbeaten Dundalk Community College with a debut at No. 6 in the national junior college rankings.

Now Catonsville's focus is on winning the national championship, but it must first get by an opening-round matchup against the country's top-ranked team in Kishwaukee (Ill.), which brings a 31-1 record and averages 108 points a game.

"I think the pressure is more on them because they don't know much about us," said Shawn Evans, a freshman point guard out of Walbrook High who led the Maryland JUCO league with 11 assists a game.

ment having a double-elimination format, Catonsville gets three chances to try to become the first Baltimore team to win a FTC national title since 1973.

"Realistically we believe we can win it all," said Catonsville coach Luke D'Alessio, who was a former assistant coach at Catholic University. "I can't see us getting blown out and we'll get tested ++ tough right away, but my only concern is the unknown . . . . those teams from the Midwest."

That Catonsville is among the eight best teams in the country speaks loudly about its rapid improvement under D'Alessio, now in his fourth year. Over that span, Catonsville has gone from five wins in 1993 to 26-6 this season. Catonsville's resurgence has been fueled by an abundance of quality players from the metro area who give its offense a lot of diversity.

James Lewis (Catonsville), a 6-2 sophomore, leads the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 20 points a game and 15 rebounds. He compiled 65 points and 48 rebounds in Catonsville's three Region XX tournament games and was voted Most Valuable Player.

Said Lewis, "All of us expected to be in this position, that was one of our goals; but first we had to take care of the conference and region tournaments."

Together, Evans and Roderick Harrison (Dunbar), whose 19 points a game is second on the team, give Catonsville a super backcourt that makes few mistakes and plays relentless defense.

Catonsville's starting five also includes two other double-figure scorers in Brian Scott (Poly, 15 ppg), Catonsville's long-range shooter, and Jason Johnson (Carver, 15 ppg), who does a lot of the "dirty work" under the basket.

"We knew or heard all about each other from high school, and we have a lot of guys who are used to winning, but we play together," said Harrison.

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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