Milford Mill reloads, aims for 2A crown

Notebook

Girls Basketball State Semifinals

March 09, 2006|By KATHERINE DUNN | KATHERINE DUNN,SUN REPORTER

After Milford Mill lost every starter from last year's Class 3A state championship team to graduation, it seemed the Millers might need a few years to get back to the final four.

They proved otherwise.

In a remarkable display of rebuilding, Millers coach DeToiya McAliley brought the team along steadily, and it peaked at the right time.

"I always stressed to them that they would never be last year's team, but a different team, and they can make their own mark and put their own stamp on this season. They don't have to live up to last season," said McAliley, last season's All-Metro Coach of the Year.

That took a little pressure off the Millers, but they still wanted to make another run at a state title, this time in Class 2A.

This team is built firmly on the shoulders of senior forward Brittany James, a 5-foot-9 workhorse who regularly out-rebounds much taller players. She averages 16.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.

Balancing act

The challenge for Atholton girls basketball coach Maureen Shacreaw this week in practice has been finding a balance for her No. 11 Raiders between having fun and getting down to business as they prepare for tomorrow's Class 2A state semifinal against Milford Mill.

The young Raiders find themselves in unfamiliar territory, having captured their first region title since 1982.

"They can be goofy sometimes because they are all such good friends, but it helps because they all pick each other up," Shacreaw said. "Once we said, `Look, you can't fool around anymore,' the level went so high. I think they are just now starting to see how good they are."

Dennis boosts Doves

No. 4 Western's chances to win its first state title since 1995 improved when senior guard Ebony Dennis returned to the team after recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Dennis burst onto the scene as a high-scoring freshman, but since then she has been hampered by injury. She tore the ACL in the summer before her junior year and then tore it again last winter. Finally, she returned to the Doves' lineup at the St. Frances tournament over the Christmas holiday.

"She started very timid for the first few games," Doves coach Tiffany Silver said, "but once she got knocked down and realized her knee wasn't going to pop back out, she's been going 100 percent. You can't slow her down. We tried to get her to walk into it slow and she was like, `No, I'm running.' "

Dennis averages 7.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists on a balanced team, but Silver said her work ethic and leadership are invaluable.

No small feat

No. 8 River Hill took a different identity to the state semifinals this season.

Without a six-footer for the first time since coach Teresa Waters took over the program, the team has relied on quickness, athleticism and smarts to get up and over the taller competition.

At 5-6, All-Metro senior guard Keisha Eaddy's leaping ability has been put to good use. She averages six rebounds a game to go with her 22.6 points.

Kelsey Erdman, a 5-10 junior forward who made the switch down low from the perimeter, has been another big key averaging 11.6 points and seven rebounds.

"She just goes up and gets it," Waters said of Erdman. "She's a step quicker than the bigger girls that she goes up against and has a nose for the ball. She's able to slip into little spots where there's an opening and can go up and get it."

Leading the way

Peju Awodipe's name may still be echoing through UMBC's RAC Arena after being announced so many times at last year's Class 1A state final.

No. 7 New Town's 5-4 junior guard scored 21 points and led the Titans' smothering pressure defense in a 62-53 victory over Southside in last year's title game.

"I felt like I was at a Chicago Bulls game - Michael Jordan or something," said Southside coach Dafne Lee-Blakney (whose team assumed the title after the Titans were found to have used players from outside New Town boundaries).

Awodipe's speed and lightning quickness as well as her 24-points-per-game average could pose a problem for Southside, especially since she goes just as hard in the final minute as she does in the first.

All for one

Veterans Sheree Ledbetter and Tiffany Lewis are so dominant for No. 10 Southside that the rest of the starting lineup - Dara Mobley, Jinaki Boston and Kiarah Hicks - doesn't draw a lot of attention.

For Jaguars coach Lee-Blakney, that can be a good thing.

"They don't really have a lot pressure on them. That's good that they don't have that weight on their shoulders, so they can just play," she said.

Ledbetter and Lewis combine for 35 of the Jaguars' 56-points-per-game average, but Mobley, Boston and Hicks score most of the rest of the points and combine for about 20 rebounds a game.

Tough matchup

Two well-balanced teams with strengths in both the frontcourt and the backcourt will tangle in the Class 4A state semifinal between No. 6 Arundel and Gaithersburg of Montgomery County.

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