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Winter Preview

December 05, 2003

Anne Arundel County

Glen Burnie is hoping that its furious finish from last season will carry into this year and break Annapolis' hold on the county title.

Annapolis has won five consecutive county titles, a record 76 games in a row over Anne Arundel foes and 21 titles in 26 years under coach John Brady.

The Gophers (19-6) won the 4A East region title and ad- vanced to the state semis for only the third time in the 70- year-old state tournament. A number of returnees, led by All- County guard Mitch Guest, have coach Mike Rudd confident.

The defending champs lost a pair of All-Metro players in two-time county Player of the Year Laronja Owens and Josh Johnson. An experienced group, led by 6-5 senior Elliott DeVoe, make the Panthers of Brady, who is the winningest active public school coach in the state at 557-95 (.854), still the team to beat.

Southern (18-7) lost four starters while Old Mill (15-8) returns a good perimeter game.

Broadneck and Meade have new coaches in Johnny Williams and Darryl Adams, respectively.

Arundel, Chesapeake, North County, Northeast, Severna Park and South River hope to surprise.

Baltimore City

Despite the loss of leading scorer Jimmy Conyers (transferred to Southern Maryland Christian Academy), Walbrook returns nearly its entire roster from last year's 4A North region semifinalists. The Warriors are tentatively scheduled to play defending state 4A champ Oxon Hill at the Basketball Academy Mixer in January.

Defending city champ and state semifinalist Lake Clifton will boast the city's best backcourt.

Douglass also is depending on solid guard play to contend for another city title. The Ducks, 49-3 over the past two seasons, will be Walbrook's biggest obstacle to the title game.

Dunbar claimed its eighth state title last winter en route to the area's No. 1 ranking. The Poets are again a huge favorite to win the 1A crown but will have to get by Southern-Balto. in the North region. The Bulldogs reached the 2A semifinals with a roster of underclassmen.

Northwestern may be a dark horse in the City league, and should challenge for the 2A North title after moving down from 3A. Mervo will be in 3A North with the likes of Randallstown and Douglass. Walbrook, Lake Clifton and Woodlawn will have Carroll County champ Westminster and longtime Frederick County power Thomas Johnson to contend with in the 4A North.

Baltimore County

After finishing runner-up to Randallstown the past couple of seasons, Woodlawn appears ready to seize the crown from its longtime rival.

The Warriors will play No. 5 Spalding, No. 13 Calvert Hall, No. 2 St. Frances and DeMatha this month.

The Rams, who reached the state 3A semifinals last winter, must fill the void left by the graduation of All-Met performers Levi Stukes (Georgia) and Terrance Breaux. Woodlawn and Randallstown will meet twice, Dec. 17 and Feb. 13, with the latter probably deciding the 4A/3A league title.

Catonsville, Dulaney, Dundalk, Kenwood, Milford Mill, Parkville, Patapsco, Perry Hall and Towson will make up the rest of the 4A/3A division.

Lansdowne and Eastern Tech should battle in the 2A/1A division with Hereford a possible dark horse. The rest of the division will have Chesapeake, Loch Raven, Overlea, Owings Mills, Pikesville, Sparrows Point and Western Tech.

Carroll County

With all five starters returning, including a pair of first-team all-county guards, Westminster is the team to beat in Carroll County. Seniors Ryan Carr (13 ppg.) and Brandon Costley (10 ppg.) will give the Owls superior play in the backcourt, while big men Jarrod Randall (6-5) and Chris Prior (6-4) add size down low.

After finishing 11-11, the team is switching to a complex Princeton-style offense, focusing on precise ball movement, perimeter shooting and backdoor cuts.

Century should be vastly improved with the return of all-county forward Chris Folland (16.9 ppg.) and talented shooting guard Ryan Dantoni. Liberty returns just one starter, but will feature eight players from a JV squad that went 18-2.

South Carroll, led by center Ryan Burns and forward Andy Eisold, could eventually be a factor.

Francis Scott Key will be short on experience, but returns a pair of fall standouts in Josh Rutter (football) and Matt Baile (soccer).

Harford County

Although the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference, the 14-team league of Harford and Cecil County teams, will take full effect next year, its format is in place this winter.

In the top division - the Chesapeake - Aberdeen's run to the state football finals has left the basketball team, which has four probable starters playing football, in flux.

When the Eagles, who boast the athletic trio of Shawn Lewis, Phillip Brown and Erin Henderson, are at full strength, they will be the favorite to beat out Fallston and Bel Air and repeat as county champs.

Fallston counts standout big man Phil Vornadore among its returnees, but its biggest question mark is a new backcourt.

Bel Air's versatility and outside shooting will give teams plenty of trouble.

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