An Eagle's eye view of Friendly game today New Centennial coach, a state winner elsewhere, hopes for 'solid' showing

Girls basketball

March 13, 1997|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Centennial coach Dave Greenberg sat alone Tuesday at a table for four, eating lunch.

Darryl Nixon, who coaches at Friendly, was one of three other Class 3A girls coaches invited to join Greenberg at a luncheon to promote the state boys and girls basketball tournaments.

Nixon didn't show. Neither did the other two.

"We're hoping that since he missed this," Greenberg said, "he'll forget what time the game is."

Nixon thought the luncheon was yesterday. But he hasn't forgotten what time his Patriots (24-2) take on Centennial (20-5) in a state semifinal game: 7 o'clock tonight at UMBC.

Some things you don't forget.

Whether looking at Friendly on paper or on film, the Prince George's County team is impressive. The Patriots are tall, big, fast and athletic.

"They're probably the best team we've faced since [nationally ranked] Christ The King," said Greenberg. "It's a tremendous challenge for us."

The Eagles opened their season in early December against Christ The King in New York. They lost by 30 points.

"But we're a lot better team now," said Greenberg, whose seventh-ranked team has won 14 straight.

Centennial will have to play its best to advance to Saturday's 8 p.m. final against the winner of the other semifinal between Linganore (26-0) and Fallston (21-2).

"We need to play as fundamentally solid a game at both ends of the court as we've ever played," said Greenberg. "That means our team defense has to be really intense and really good. We have to make them try [to] score against our half-court defense. And we need to box out on the boards.

"On offense, we have to make good decisions and protect the ball. We can't turn the ball over and give them cheap baskets. They can hurt you on transition, and we need to prevent that. We have to make them earn their points."

The Eagles also will need to make some outside shots. Friendly's height advantage often limits opponents to one shot, and makes it more difficult to score inside.

But Greenberg said the Patriots could be "prone to foul trouble."

Said Centennial's Icyis Richardson: "We'll need to look to shoot from outside. But I think we can go inside, pump-fake and draw the foul."

Centennial relies on defensive pressure to help create scoring opportunities. It doesn't have a lot of offensive weapons. The Eagles, who have only one player -- Meredith Price -- averaging in double figures, could be in trouble if they fall too far behind.

"I think it's important we get off to a good start and not fall behind," Greenberg said. "It doesn't mean we can't come back, but it's more difficult to do that."

For Friendly, seniors Natasha Johnson (6-foot-2) and Shakira Smith (5-11) average 18 and 17 points, respectively. They also average 10 rebounds. Andrea Gardner, a 6-3 junior, is averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.

Annitra Cole, 5-0, is a four-year starter at point guard. "She can penetrate, shoot the three and is active on defense," said Greenberg.

While Centennial will be making its first trip to the state tournament since it won in 1981, this will be Greenberg's eighth visit. His record while coaching at Mount Hebron in the state tournament is 12-1. That's six state titles.

"I know he's going to have his team ready for us," Nixon said. "He's been around."

Greenberg calls his team a "decided underdog," yet will not concede anything.

"I know they're pretty good, and huge, but I'll be real disappointed if we can't compete with them. If we can do the things that we try to get them to do, we should be able to compete with them."

Pub Date: 3/13/97

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