Southern meets Middletown, at 25-1, in semifinal today County schedule toughens locals for tournament

Class 1A girls basketball

March 13, 1998|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The Southern Bulldogs were a sneaky team last season.

They went into the Class 2A state playoffs unranked with a not-so-gaudy 13-10 record and stunned then-No. 8-ranked Wilde Lake, 59-58, in a state semifinal before falling to Wheaton in the final on the following day.

Guess what? They're back.

This time, the Bulldogs are 14-8 and their semifinal test is Middletown, which comes in as the state's top-ranked Class 2A school with a 25-1 record. Game time is 3 p.m. today at UMBC.

Don't let the Bulldogs fool you. They are for real, with veteran coach Linda Kilpatrick sending her team to the state playoffs for the 11th time. Five times, the Bulldogs have returned home with state titles, the last in 1985.

The Bulldogs' recipe for success is rather simple. They play a difficult regular-season schedule filled with much-larger Class 4A bTC county schools and aren't afraid to add St. Mary's to their slate.

For them, the regular season is like running with a refrigerator on their backs. When the playoffs come along and they're against schools their own size, the fridge is removed.

That's not to say Middletown is a lightweight.

"We're never ashamed of our record. Of our [eight] losses, six were against ranked teams," said Kilpatrick. "We're playing pretty well right now, and compared to last year, they're playing at the same level. It's the same situation as last year -- Middletown is an outstanding team. We're going to use the Wilde Lake game to get us ready for this one. I think our chances are just as good."

The Bulldogs rely on pressure defense to get their transition game going with senior guard Tiffany Neal providing most of the havoc.

In the Bulldogs' 59-44 win over Dunbar in the region semifinal and their 70-49 win against Poly in the final, Neal totaled 30 steals. Senior center Tameka Graves provides the inside presence (14 points, 14 rebounds) and junior forward Alicia Groveston (six points, 13 rebounds) is another starter back from last year.

A big key today will be how effective Southern's press is against a well-coached Middletown team under 11-year coach Mark Miller.

"We'll give it a try, and if they handle it, we'll make the necessary adjustments," said Kilpatrick. "We both play a similar style, so it may come down to who has a little luck and can execute. Their first five all contribute, and they play very good defense. All of them have good fundamentals."

Middletown, winner of the Monocacy Valley Athletic League, is led by guard Liz Shannon and forwards Anne Rieser and Jessica Baker.

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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