Rebuilding St. Mary's girls team works its way back into rankings

Saints on 4-game streak after tentative, green start

Notebook

January 21, 2000|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The St. Mary's girls basketball team has found a way to sneak back in the Top 20 poll this winter.

These are not the same Saints, who, over the last four seasons, stayed near the top of the poll and last season graduated four players to Division I college ball.

This year's group, featuring five starters largely untested at the varsity level, entered the poll recently through the back door.

On the strength of a four-game winning streak that started with a come-from-behind 54-53 win against top-ranked St. Frances two Sundays ago, the Saints have earned the No. 20 spot with a 9-7 mark.

"The new girls [who] didn't play a lot last year are starting to get acclimated to the varsity level and are improving every game," said St. Mary's coach Harry Dobson.

"We've always concentrated on fundamentals, but more so this year," he continued. "I tell them, if we do things fundamentally right, we can win some ball games. They're coming along, working hard, and improving every single game -- that's the best thing about this season."

Senior guard Toby McIntire is the only returnee who played significant minutes on last season's 26-7 team.

This season, she's leading the way, averaging 11 points and nearly six assists a game.

Senior forward Kelly Smith, who has been playing through an ankle injury the entire season, is adding 10 points a game. Junior guard Lauren Bonanni, who received some varsity time in her first two seasons, has taken on a bigger role. And sophomore newcomers Kristy Rogers and Beth Foster have developed steadily inside.

"Nobody expected us to do too much, so any time we do something good, it makes it that much better," said Dobson.

Not much was better than the win over St. Frances, which ignited the Saints' streak. And it was fundamentals -- most notably a typical strong performance from the free-throw line (19-for-24) -- that played big in coming back from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

Senior Christy DiMattesa's three-pointer with 30 seconds left provided the finishing touch.

"We've felt real good after that, playing with more and more confidence," said Dobson.

"With the real strong teams, there was always pressure. This season, there's been no pressure. We just play the best we can and see what happens. This is fun -- it's always fun to coach."

Entries from other places

The Institute of Notre Dame's basketball team has rescheduled its game with Notre Dame Prep for 4 p.m. Jan. 27 at Baltimore Arena. The battle of Notre Dames will tip off before the BayRunners' game vs. St. Louis.

This rivalry still takes a back seat to "The Game," the annual contest between the Indians and Mercy. This year's game -- at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Towson Center -- will be the 34th.

The IND-Mercy game, which regularly draws about 3,500 fans, began as a preliminary to a Bullets game at what is now Baltimore Arena. Mercy leads the series, 22-11.

The swimming showdown between Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland unbeatens Notre Dame Prep and McDonogh has been rescheduled for 3: 45 p.m. today.

The meet, snowed out yesterday, is at McDonogh.

River Hill senior soccer player Natalie Klisas, The Sun's Howard County co-Player of the Year, has committed orally to a scholarship offer from Towson University.

"I liked the school, it has a nice campus, and I wanted to stay close to home," said Klisas, an All-Metro selection on defense.

Klisas played sweeper in high school and helped the third-ranked Hawks (18-1) to the Class 3A state championship.

The inaugural Baltimore City vs. Baltimore County all-star basketball games will be played March 17 at CCBC-Essex.

The event, a week after the March 9-11 state basketball finals for boys and girls, will feature a girls game at 6 p.m. followed by a boys game at 8.

Sun staff wrtiers Katherine Dunn and Stan Rappaport contributed to this article.

Nominate athletes

The Baltimore Sun accepts nominations from coaches only for its Athletes of the Week from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays at 410-332-6200 or 1-800-829-8000, Ext. 6200.

Two athletes (one boy and one girl) will be selected each week and featured in Wednesday's editions. Athletes nominated must be available the next Monday to have their pictures taken. Only coaches can nominate Athletes of the Week.

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