Genesis of about-face

Girls basketball: The roots of the River Hill girls' jump from mediocrity to No. 1 aren't easy to dig out, but the players point to coach Teresa Waters and her singular determination to win.

February 27, 2000|By Stan Rappapport | Stan Rappapport,SUN STAFF

There is no one explanation as to why River Hill's girls basketball is undefeated -- why a team that lost 11 of 23 games last season has now won 22 straight and is ranked No. 1.

But a good place to start is second-year coach Teresa Waters, who led Oakland Mills to the state Class 1A title in 1997-98, then left after 16 seasons to coach at the school where she taught.

Waters came to a team with talent and problems that didn't easily go away.

"We had a lot of team meetings," said junior guard Fana Walcott.

"There was a lot of animosity here," Waters said. "Different ones didn't like other ones for whatever reason. A lot of little pettiness.

FOR THE RECORD - A quote attributed to River Hill freshman Fana Walcott in Sunday's sports section was actually that of her junior sister, Rashida. The Sun regrets the error.

"The focus wasn't on team or basketball. I don't know if there was a major desire to win."

Waters was a competitive athlete, and that is her foundation as a coach. It has taken time, but her message has gotten through.

"You can't teach heart, but in a way you can show heart," said Lisa Humphrey, one of two seniors on the team and a three-year starter who now comes off the bench. "She has so much love for the game and so much desire for the game that it makes you want to play so much harder."

And Waters' message was heard by players who want to be there. Three players on last year's team decided not to come back. Another player returned, but quit early into the season.

"This year is different because we don't have people on the team that just want to be on the team," Humphrey said. "People on this team want to win."

The players who left knew, and rightly so, that playing time would be limited. That's because Waters included five freshmen -- Megan Buescher, Jen Green, Laura Hostetler, Allison Kupec and Fana Walcott -- on the varsity roster.

The freshmen have created a more competitive atmosphere in practice and blended well with their older teammates.

Fana Walcott has made the biggest impact. She has started every game at point guard, and is averaging 8.6 points and 5.3 steals.

"She gives so much on defense," Waters said. "Offensively, she's freed Greeba [Outen-Barlow] up and just creates. She's a player that can read. You don't have to tell her what to do. And she's quick. I mean she's quick."

Buescher, a 6-foot forward, has occasionally started, and Hostetler, a 5-8 guard/forward is often the sixth or seventh player off the bench. "And our most-improved players are Kupec and Green," Waters said.

Waters, who also gives credit to assistant coaches Mark Green and Suzi Coughlan for their contributions, acknowledges that her team at the tech-magnet school has "all the ingredients" to be successful.

"I have players who are going to play hard defense, I have go-to players offensively. I have players that are just role players and they accept that position," Waters said.

"We've got goodness in every player and ability and potential, and everybody is complementing one another. One thing about this team, they don't care who gets the credit."

Clearly, however, the 5-10 Outen-Barlow and 6-2 Keiko Miller-Tate, juniors who are averaging 16 and 14 points, respectively, are the catalysts.

They challenge their teammates in practice and make them work hard, then do the same to opponents. Both are talented players having the types of season everyone knew they were capable of.

Oddly enough, both Outen-Barlow and Miller-Tate sprained ankles last Monday. Neither played in last Tuesday's win over Howard, and their status for tomorrow's Class 3A East Region quarterfinal game at Wilde Lake is questionable.

"If I could avoid not playing them, I would," said Waters about tomorrow's game.

Not having Outen-Barlow and Miller-Tate at full strength will hurt the Hawks, but Waters' decision to play her bench as often as possible in the regular season will help in the playoffs.

"We don't rely on one or two people. It's a total team effort," said senior Kristi Parco, who, along with sophomore Rosanna Drake, has earned a starting spot this season.

"On this team, as opposed to teams in the past, we can go far down the bench and everyone can contribute."

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