Arundel's `family' looks to give itself another gift in 4A

'Cats eye third state title

Western has travel team

State girls basketball notebook

High Schools

March 10, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham and Katherine Dunn | Glenn P. Graham and Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Arundel girls basketball coach Lee Rogers describes his Wildcats as extended family, with a trip to UMBC almost an annual event around this time each year.

The Wildcats (24-2) will be playing in the Class 4A state semifinals for the seventh time when they meet Oxon Hill of Prince George's County at 3 p.m. tomorrow, with the hope of bringing back the program's third state title.

For Rogers, it's much more than wins and losses.

"They're my bigger sisters for my kids [Brittany, 14, and Lee, Jr., 7] and I'm like their father when they're away from their parents," said Rogers, who is 292-85 in 15 years.

"At times, I see them more than their moms and dads do, and I try to treat them like they were my kids. This is a family, and we preach it's a family. They're not going to do everything together, but for the most part they do."

With a junior-laden team led by All-Metro guard Alex McGuire (25 points) that has last year's state semifinal run on its resume, the Wildcats feel confident they can take the next couple of steps to bring home another crown.

Tomorrow, they'll be up against an Oxon Hill team with a similar history. The Clippers will be playing in their ninth state tournament - including a semifinal showing last year - in search of their first title.

Road warriors

Hitting the road won't be anything new for Western when the Doves head to UMBC for tomorrow's 9 p.m. Class 3A state semifinal showdown with Paint Branch.

The Doves (23-2) haven't played a game at home since mid-December.

That's when burst pipes flooded their gym floor. Ever since, the Doves have practiced at elementary schools and even on outside courts a few times, but that hasn't been as difficult as playing every game on the road.

"It's been hard, because we can expect a full house everywhere we go," said Doves coach Donchez Graham. "Games that you wouldn't expect to be crowded, like Carver - that was to-the-rafters crowded. You're playing in front of their fans - hostile environments every time."

Still, Graham said the grueling season prepared his team for its first trip to UMBC in three years.

"They learned to disconnect and not worry about the crowds. That helped a young team grow up quicker. They don't concentrate on the magnitude of the game; they just come to play."

Nine is enough

At Southside, coach Dafne Lee-Blakney has built a state Class 1A contender with just nine players.

"I'll take quality over quantity any day," said Lee-Blakney, whose No. 18 Jaguars are headed to their first state semifinal Friday night at 7 vs. Pocomoke in only their third season as a varsity program.

Lee-Blakney, an All-Metro player at Walbrook in the late 1980s, has four players averaging double figures - Patrice Griffin, Sharee Ledbetter, Angela Speight and Tiffany Lewis - while Lanier Brown, Ashley Johnson, Dejonae Burch, Sonja McRae and Deidre Bowman round out the roster.

Lee-Blakney said the only problem arises when her players get into foul trouble, but that hasn't happened often.

The Jaguars dethroned four-time state champ Dunbar in the regional final.

"As a coach, it's a joy," said Lee-Blakney. "You don't have anybody complaining about playing time. They all have to share the ball. They have to lean on and depend on each other, because fatigue becomes a factor and you have to work together."

Support staff

Woodlawn point guard Candice Britton is averaging perhaps the most unique double double in this year's state girls tournament - 11.3 points and 11.2 assists.

The 5-foot-11 senior runs an offense with many options. Her primary targets are Tiara Wildy on the perimeter, Ronda Shelley inside and Brittney Taylor on the break. Those three combined for 41.7 points per game - about half of them on assists from Britton.

"Candice loves to pass the ball," said Woodlawn coach DeWayne Burroughs. "She loves to get everybody into the flow of the game. She doesn't care about scoring. She feels like if she can contribute by giving up the assists and getting rebounds, then that's what she'll do to help us win."

To Britton, who is headed to Wagner College next season, the game is not about statistics but getting that elusive state title, beginning with the Class 4A semifinal vs. Damascus tomorrow at 5 p.m. at UMBC.

"After what happened last year," said Britton of the Warriors' loss to Churchill in the 4A final, "everyone wants to win. Everyone plays together all year round and most of us are seniors, so we know each other really well."

First impression

The motivation behind City's first trip to the state final four began a year ago when the Knights lost to Catonsville in the regional playoffs.

"It was a real close game and we thought we could have won, so we just wanted to come back strong and make a statement." said senior guard Alanna Ingram. "We just needed more experience and more hard work. We weren't as mentally tough, and I don't think our goals were set as high."

This season, the No. 14 Knights (22-2) set their goals high - win their first Baltimore City, regional and state titles.

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