Hot Wilde Lake faces streaking Wheaton and its 47-game run 'Cats, Knights no strangers to UMBC, state tourneys

Girls basketball

March 12, 1998|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

It happened on Dec. 17, 1996. That's the last time Wheaton High School's girls basketball team lost a game.

The Knights are 24-0 this season and have won 47 straight. They are on course for their second straight state championship.

Who can stop them?

How about a bunch of Wildecats?

"We have respect for their record. At the same time, we know that anyone is beatable on any given night," said Wilde Lake coach Kelly Storr, whose 23-2 team will play the Montgomery County powerhouse at 7 o'clock tonight in a Class 3A state semifinal at UMBC. "We just have to hope we're the team that's going to do it."

Wheaton has won its three playoff games by an average of 27 points. The team's lowest margin of victory this season was six points, and that happened twice in December. The Knights beat Montgomery County rival Paint Branch, which is in the Class 4A state semifinals, by 11 on Jan. 20. Since then, they haven't won a game by fewer than 20 points, and five times, they won by 30 or more.

"We were within three points with 2 1/2 minutes left, and you could just see in their eyes that they knew they were going to win," said Paint Branch coach Heather Podosek. "Our game was close, but they do the right things to win. They play with a lot of confidence."

The Knights return three starters from last year's Class 2A championship team -- senior 5-foot-8 point guard Lesley Walker and sisters Ijeoma Agba (5-foot-11 senior) and Keka Agba (6-foot sophomore).

Walker, a Washington Post All-Metro who will play for Georgetown next season, has a team-high 22-point average. She holds school records in points, assists and steals.

"She's the best point guard I've ever had," said Wheaton coach Walt Dupee, who will retire this week from coaching after 18 years at Wheaton.

The Agba sisters average 12 points and 10 rebounds apiece.

"The two sisters have really come along nice," said Podosek. "They have relieved some of the pressure off of Leslie. They do a great job on the boards and have good post [position] moves."

Storr, whose team is coming off a double-overtime win over Northern-Calvert for the East region championship, knows what her team must do.

"We're going to have to play really good defense and box out very well," Storr said. "They have two girls [the Agba sisters] that are tall and big. We have to box them out. We also have to control their point guard as best we can. We know she's good. We know she's quick. We know she shoots from all over. We just have to make sure we're on her."

The Wildecats, who lost their only games this season in the IAABO Girl's Invitational Christmas Basketball Tournament and have won 17 straight, would have played Wheaton last year for the Class 2A title had they not been upset by Southern, 59-58, in overtime in a state semifinal.

"That loss has definitely focused our seniors and juniors," said Storr. "They know what they want -- and know what didn't work last year and what they have to change this year. It's definitely a motivation."

Four Wilde Lake seniors were on the team that won the Class 1A state title in 1995 -- twins Toni and Lashon White, Bridget White and Jessie Roy-Harrison. They are expected to start tonight along with another senior, Natashka Hill.

Toni White is averaging 12 points and six assists, and Lashon White is averaging 10 points and nine rebounds. Bridget White is averaging 8.8 points and 11.2 rebounds. Roy-Harrison is playing her best basketball of the season, and scored in double figures all three playoff games. Hill is coming off a team-high 16-point effort against Northern.

Offensively, the Wildecats will run as often as they can. "We're going to push the ball up the court and hopefully they won't be able to keep up," Storr said.

Both teams are ranked No. 3 in their area newspaper polls -- Wilde Lake by The Sun and Wheaton by The Washington Post.

Pub Date: 3/12/98

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