Sitting down, stepping up

Eyeing a return for the playoffs, Joppatowne's Arielle Townes is leading from the bench while recovering from knee surgery.

December 07, 2005|By MARY BETH KOZAK | MARY BETH KOZAK,SUN REPORTER

Arielle Townes sat on the bench last week in the Joppatowne gym and watched her team practice without her. "Coach looks like he's about to make them run," she said with a grin.

Mariners girls basketball coach Mike Harris would like nothing more than to make Townes run.

The point guard will be out for most - and perhaps all - of the season because of surgery to repair her left anterior cruciate ligament, which she tore in June playing for her Amateur Athletic Union team, the Perry Hall Silver Bullets.

"First, she was in denial," Harris said of Townes. "Then she was down for a couple of days. But, as soon as she got her surgery [in October], she wanted to come back. I don't know if she'll be able to come back this year, but she's doing everything possible."

Townes, a two-time All-Harford County selection, led the Mariners in every category last year. The 5-foot-11 junior averaged 18.3 points, 6.5 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 5.9 steals per game. Behind Townes, Joppatowne won the Susquehanna Division of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference and went to the Class 1A North regional finals.

"She's smart and confident," said fellow junior guard and best friend Sasha Matthew. "She rebounds, she scores, and she can pass. She can do everything."

Townes, however, has a new role this year - leader off the court.

"I'm learning how to be a different leader from the bench," said Townes, who wears a large black brace from her upper thigh down to her ankle.

Although Townes' type of injury generally requires at least six months of rehabilitation after surgery, she said her doctor told her she might be able to come back in time for the postseason.

Basketball has been the focus of Townes' life since her older brother, Brent Cash, placed a ball in her hand when she was 6. Having grown up playing with boys in recreation leagues, Townes did not play on an all-girls team until she entered high school.

"I still prefer to play with guys because they push me to be better," Townes said. "They don't back off because they think I may do something. They make me stronger physically and mentally."

She transfers that mentality to her teammates. She pushes them to improve, and they, in turn, push her to get healthy.

"The [team] pushes me to go to rehab. I want to come to practice, but they tell me to go to rehab instead," Townes said.

Despite being newcomers to the Chesapeake Division, the Mariners were considered heavy favorites to win the division and the UCBAC championship before Townes' injury.

The team went 12-0 in the Susquehanna Division last year and nearly upset Fallston in the conference championship game. Townes had 21 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks in the game.

But now it's a different story.

"We have to prove ourselves all over again because we're in a different division," Harris said. "We didn't win the [UCBAC] championship last year. We haven't won anything. We won the regional championship by default."

Last year's team went 20-4 and lost in the 1A North regional final to New Town, who went on to win the state championship, only to forfeit their season because of ineligible players.

"They're hungry for a state championship," Harris said. "The loss was hard, but they took the forfeiture of [New Town's] season worse than the loss."

A key factor for the Mariners to have a successful season is Matthew playing well without Townes.

Matthew and Townes were an effective duo, combining to average more than 30 points per game last season. They have been playing together for six years, and that chemistry is going to be hard to replace.

"I like to watch Sasha play," Townes said. "She has a lot more to show than what people see. She can do all the things I can do, but I just did them first. I think she'll do well. She adapts to situations very well."

Matthew has seen time at point guard in practices, but Harris is hoping to keep her at shooting guard.

"Sasha's game is really cutting, slashing and working off screens," Harris said. "Sasha's game is so smooth and so easy, and I don't want her to tense up or feel the need to press."

Harris will likely go with junior newcomers Destinee Macklin or Antwonishea Hardy at the point.

"We're looking to get more people involved. We're hoping not to get just one person trying to fill Arielle's [spot], but have four or five girls try to get the numbers Arielle got for us."

Regardless, the team would love to have her back for the playoffs, and Townes has made that her motivation.

"If [Townes] is 70 percent come playoff time, it's something to have," Harris said.

marybeth.kozak@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.