A bit shorter, yet just as tall

Girls basketball: In losing all-county center Julie Wike, the Carroll Christian girls lost their direction. But the new guard-oriented offense is finding its way nicely.

High Schools

January 30, 2000|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Before the current basketball season unfolded, several questions swirled around the Carroll Christian girls team.

Who would replace all-county center Julie Wike, a 500-point scorer and 300-rebound collector last season who graduated?

How successful would the Patriots be in making the transition from a double post-oriented game to a five-guard set?

Could Carroll Christian repeat as the Potomac Christian Athletic Conference champion?

Time -- and results -- will answer the final inquiry, but the Patriots, in compiling a 4-1 conference record and 5-3 overall mark, have found answers to the first two.

Many players acknowledge not foreseeing such success, but second-year coach Matthew Reisberg says he is not surprised by his squad's performance.

"I was expecting us to be where we are at this point," Reisberg says. "I knew that we had a solid team. The question was whether we could fill the middle."

For four years, the middle belonged to Wike, a 6-foot-1 post player who finished her high school career with more than 1,500 points. The tandem of Wike and 5-11 power forward Erin Elgersma combined to grab 28 rebounds a game last season.

But when Wike and Elgersma graduated and no dominant inside force emerged, Reisberg had to decide whether it was time to change the system. As Reisberg pondered a transition, it became a familiar topic of discussion among some players during the off-season.

"We talked about it a lot," recalls senior guard Katie Kirk. "We went back and forth about whether a five-guard offense was better or if someone was going to step it up in the middle."

Despite going into the season with no scrimmages, Reisberg decided to implement a five-guard set in Carroll Christian's season opener against Capitol on Dec. 3.

The Patriots lost that game, 54-33, but the good news was that Reisberg had discovered a center in 5-foot-7 sophomore Jackie Heeger.

"We didn't have the rebounding and defense inside," he says. "It led me to look for a center, and Jackie stepped up."

A reserve last season, Heeger had watched Wike, but was somewhat unsure if she could fill her predecessor's shoes.

"I felt like there was a little bit more pressure," Heeger says. "But I took it as a challenge, and I like challenges."

Heeger made her first varsity start in the team's second game on Dec. 7, but Red Lion won, 59-43.

Carroll Christian's 0-2 start surprised junior forward Krystal Dixon, who blamed the troubled start partly on a lack of teamwork.

"We had to work together as a team," she says. "We had to try to unite and get past some of our differences."

That's when the Patriots went on a five-game winning streak, including a 4-0 mark in the PCAC.

Several players have emerged as the team leaders. Dixon is averaging nine points and five rebounds a game, while Kirk leads the team in points (12.5 a game), assists (4.7), and steals (2.4).

A four-year varsity starter, Kirk says she still has trouble adjusting to her role as the primary scoring threat.

"I was used to the mentality of getting [Wike] the ball and looking inside before I even thought of shooting," Kirk says. "I've never been a good shooter, but I knew that someone had to do it, and I've just been doing it."

Reisberg has also been blessed with the return of senior forward Renee Coglianese, who broke her left ankle playing volleyball and had to sit out her junior year. Coglianese is averaging 9.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.3 steals.

"I thought I would have a problem with my ankle, but it feels good," she says, noting that she scored 21 points against Elkton. "That kind of made me feel better because I was worried about whether I could still play."

Heeger leads the team in rebounds with about seven a game, and Reisberg says the sophomore should continue to blossom under the tutelage of Wike, now a Carroll Christian assistant coach.

"At first, I could push her around, and she would fall on the ground," Wike says of Heeger. "Now she pushes me around. She's a lot more physical now."

Although the Patriots lost, 66-40, to conference-leading Harford Christian on Dec. 14, the team is confident that it will compete for the conference crown.

"We will be in the championship finals," Kirk says with a knowing grin. "I have faith that we will be there."

Pub Date: 1/30/00

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