I'M NOT MUCH of a sports fan. But when a local high school girls basketball team wins the state championship, that's something to celebrate. And when a local girl becomes Player of the Year, it's worth a story.
However, the real story is not about a player, but about a team.
Jill Marano, a junior at Arundel High School, has been named Anne Arundel County Player of the Year by The Sun and the Annapolis Capital. She was also chosen for the all-metro girls basketball team and has been featured in newspaper and television stories.
While talking with Jill about Arundel's terrific basketball season, I discovered a lot about what makes a winning team.
Jill wouldn't talk about herself -- not because she is shy but because she knows that teamwork is what brought the Arundel Wildcats success. The players worked together. If one girl passed the ball, she could be confident that her teammate would use it for the good of the team.
Many of the girls have played together for several years, on county teams, in summer leagues and in traveling competitive teams, such as the Maryland Chesapeake Bay Hurricanes.
Coach Lee Rogers assembled his school's championship squad by recognizing natural talent, but especially by building on that talent in a disciplined training program.
Every day after school, the girls met together to study for an hour. Then they would practice basketball skills for three hours. On Saturdays, practices were even longer. Throughout the season, the girls would also meet socially, for pasta parties, to hang out and to share long telephone calls.
Lynn Marano, Jill's mother, said the team had no prima donnas. All the girls worked together and helped bring out the best in each other.
The season wasn't easy. The Wildcats lost their first game against the Severna Park Falcons. Before their second clash against the Falcons, the team held a pasta party with silly games like "Pin the Tail on the Falcon" and Falcon dances. The girls laughed and cheered and built up team spirit -- and defeated their archrivals the next day.
Tension mounted as the Wildcats progressed through the state championship tournament. The night before their semifinal game, the girls gathered for an inspirational party.
A highlight of the party was spirit quotes. One of the parents had written a series of sayings and put them in a bowl. Each girl, in turn, would pick out a paper and read it to the group. One quote in particular really caught the spirit of the Wildcats: "Players win games. Teams win champion-ships."
The next day, the girls were deeply touched by their school's support of the team. Athletic Director Bernie Walters and the Arundel High School Boosters Club arranged for buses to take students to the semifinal at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The 10 busloads of fans formed a cheering section that helped the team to victory.
At the tournament's final game against Oxon Hill, the stands again were full of Arundel fans supporting their team's battle for the championship.
The season is over. The memories are sweet. A banner is being prepared to hang in the school gym, honoring the team's accomplishments. Jill and her teammates are still playing basketball, still enjoying their friendships.
Many will return next year to carry on for their school, for their team and for each other. They've worked hard and learned a lot about basketball. And they've learned a lot about life: "Players win games. Teams win champion-ships."
`Lighten Up' parish mission
Each year, parishioners at Crofton's St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church recognize the Lenten season by joining in a parish mission. A visiting speaker helps the assembly take time out of busy schedules to reflect on the things that are most important in life.
This year's mission, called "Lighten Up," will feature Doug Brummel, a nationally known Catholic entertainer, storyteller, musician and teacher. Each night, Brummel will share the stories of his unique characters to help focus on the difficult issues people face.
With warmth and humor, music and prayer, people are invited to laugh a little and ease their spirits through forgiveness.
The mission will be held at Seton Parish from 7 p.m. to 8: 45 p.m. Sunday through March 28. Information: 410-721-5770.
Lunch Bunch outing
The Lunch Bunch of the Crofton Association of Retired Persons (CARP) will travel to Baltimore on Thursday for lunch and a big movie -- the IMAX production of "Fantasia" at the Maryland science Center.
A bus will leave Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church at 11: 30 a.m., stopping first at the Inner Harbor Phillips Restaurant, where the group will have lunch. Next stop is the science center, and the remake of the Disney animated classic for the five-story-high IMAX screen.
The cost for the excursion is $40. Information or reservations: Ed Laird, 410-721-5251.