Playing for Blue Angels is playing hoops for fun

Independent team for girls offers chance to compete without school pressure

High Schools

January 23, 2000|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Pressure? What pressure?

"There is no pressure. That's what makes it so much fun," Katelyn Hoffman said. "We basically play for the fun of it, for the love of the game."

Hoffman plays for the senior Blue Angels, an independent travel basketball team made up of high school students. Phil Straw, a Howard County resident, coaches the squad as well as an eighth-grade Blue Angels team.

This year's senior Blue Angels team has 10 players, six from Howard County. Three players are from Mount Hebron -- Hoffman, Kate Story and Katie Zabel. All are seniors. Erika Schroeder, a senior, and junior Shannon Townsend attend Centennial, and Marielle Proia is a senior at River Hill.

The Blue Angels (16-7) play mostly on the road against JV or varsity teams from private schools. They lost to St. Mary's JV last Wednesday, and will play Archbishop Spalding's JV at 3: 30 p.m. Thursday on their home court, the Ellicott City Armory.

So who plays for the Blue Angels?

"It's girls who don't want to play for their high school but still want to play basketball," said Hoffman, an all-county field hockey and lacrosse goalie who will attend the University of North Carolina on a lacrosse scholarship.

Zabel also is a lacrosse player at Mount Hebron and will attend Brown in the fall.

"I still wanted to play basketball because I love the sport, but I didn't want that much of a commitment," said Zabel, who played two years of JV basketball at Mount Hebron. "We really don't have that many practices, and the games are so much fun."

Five of the six Howard County players are new to the team. This is Hoffman's second season.

"It keeps me in shape, and keeps me from getting burned out in lacrosse," said Hoffman, who plays lacrosse throughout the winter. "I'm not the best, but I have a lot of fun playing."

Townsend played on Centennial's JV for two years and considered playing for the varsity. But she didn't think she was ready. "I wasn't at the level I needed to be on the varsity team," she said.

Straw keeps in contact with basketball players in the county and lets them know his team is an option if they don't want to play for their high school.

"It got to the point where I wasn't having fun playing for my high school," Townsend said. "I didn't want to devote 2 1/2 to 3 hours every day to something I wasn't having fun in.

"This gives me the chance to play the kind of basketball I like to play."

Townsend said if she made a mistake playing for Centennial it would bring her down.

Straw charges the girls $120 to pay for officials, uniforms, gym rentals and tournament fees. The team usually meets at the Armory and carpools to away games.

The Blue Angels had a rough start this season, losing, 112-11, to highly ranked Riverdale Baptist.

"It was like nothing I've experienced before," Hoffman said. "It was like a high school football team playing against professionals. They knew so much more then we did."

Usually, the games are competitive. The Blue Angels lost to Chapelgate's varsity earlier this month, 39-29, then beat the Flames in the final of the Washington Bible College tournament, 31-28.

"There's no pressure," Zabel said. "We just go out and play basketball and have fun."

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