F.S. Key finds strength in balance, experience Memories of regional victory, volleyball title could spark Eagles

March 14, 1997|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The Mardela stat sheet is impressive.

It starts with Rasheedah Akram, the state's all-time career leader in scoring with 3,541 points and counting. This year, the 5-foot-10 senior, who can play every position, is averaging 37.6 -- points and 18.1 rebounds for the 22-3 Warriors.

There's more.

Forward Maria Finger, a 5-11 sophomore, is averaging 14 points and just under 12 rebounds a game. Junior forward Jen Sickmund adds seven more points and five rebounds.

The Warriors, from Wicomico County on the Eastern Shore, average 69 points a game this season and yield only 47.

That's the challenge in front of the Francis Scott Key Eagles in their Class 1A state semifinal game at 7 tonight at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

The Eagles, who have put up impressive numbers themselves in going 23-3 this season, are focusing on playing their game.

"It helps to know a little about them. We have to stay in front of [Akram], and if she's going to get her points, we have to keep the rest of their team from getting theirs," said Key coach Alice Smith.

"They go with a full-court press, so if we can get the ball up court and work the offense inside, we'll be OK."

The Eagles will try to offset Mardela's flash with their own balanced attack.

Seniors Stephanie Stambaugh (13.8 points, 7.9 rebounds) and Cindy Sheedy (10.2 points, 6.1 rebounds) are the options inside, and senior Nicole Keffer, junior Jessica Matos and sophomore point guard Sindi Stem can all find different ways to score. Keffer, who averages 11.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, has been slowed with a knee injury during the postseason, but the week's time between games has helped.

Defensively, the Eagles will play with the same kind of pressure they've had success with all season.

The intangibles look to be in the Eagles' favor.

There's no better way to come into the state tournament than by coming off a character-building 63-62 double-overtime win at noisy Brunswick, last year's state champion, in the region final.

And with five players on the roster having experienced winning a state title in volleyball during the fall season, the Eagles know what they're getting into when they make the trip to UMBC.

"We'll know what to expect as far as the crowd reaction and all the noise," said Stambaugh, who scored 23 and had 12 rebounds at Brunswick. "The Brunswick win really boosted us up, and we're confident from that."

Added Smith: "After the Brunswick win, the confidence, energy and excitement grew. That was an incredible game," Smith said. "It also helps they have the state tournament experience from volleyball. They have some idea what to expect."

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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