For Century High, success isn't gender specific

Knights' boys and girls basketball teams off to fast start

January 27, 2012|By Steve Jones

Neither team is flashy. They won't break any scoring records.

But a focus on tight defense and a disciplined approach to the game has carried the Century boys and girls basketball programs to a solid record of success during the last 10 years, and the current season looks like it might be the best ever on Ronsdale Road.

Following a 45-36 win over the Winters Mill Falcons on Jan. 24, the Century girls have a comfortable two-game lead in the Carroll County standings. The Knights' 14-1 start is easily the best in program history, and Century has never won eight of its first nine county games before this year.

It's a new feeling for senior Alice Mercer, who has won two state championships in lacrosse and also started for a Century field hockey team that reached the Class 2A final.

"We knew that the last two years would be rebuilding years," said Mercer, now in her fourth season on the varsity squad. "This year, we have a lot of experience.

"It's such a great accomplishment to be 14-1," she said. "We're first in the region and county, and really have a good chance to make this year one of our best.

"We have several players on this team who have won state championships in other sports, and we know that everybody needs to come out here and work hard every day because that's what makes a state title team."

Despite their first-place standing in the county, the Knights aren't among statistical leaders in offensive categories. Junior Jamie Clark, who leads the county in free-throw percentage, and Mercer are the Knights' top scorers, despite averaging fewer than 10 points per game. Senior Angela Flister is 12th among county rebounders.

It's a different story when the Knights don't have the ball. Century creates a lot of turnovers, as evidenced by Mercer's county-leading five steals per game. Juniors Haley Bordner and Cassidy Jones are fourth and sixth in the county, averaging more than two steals per game.

The Knights recorded an losing season last winter, so the way the team has banded together is especially pleasing to head coach Joel Beard.

"It seems like we have a different leading scorer every game," said Beard. "We're very balanced. Haley, Angela, and Jamie have done a nice job rebounding, and we have two sophomore guards who have played well for us in Brooke Snyder and Tess Nichols."

While the Knights have discussed the postseason, they remain focused on winning their remaining regular-season games and earning the top seed in the Class 2A West regional playoffs.

"My goal is to deal with the playoffs when we actually get there," said Beard. "We want to be playing as well as we can at the end of the regular season. This might be the team that can go further."

Beard realizes that he will need big contributions from his five seniors when the postseason arrives.

"Each of them brings us something important," he said. "Angela's our big rebounder and has had a couple of high-scoring games. Alice plays as hard and as fast as anybody in our league.

"Allyson (Belknap) is a strong defensive player, and Alyssa (Dixon) can score and has played well. Alyssia (Harris) has been sick and missed some time, but when she's healthy she really helps us. It's a nice mix."

Boys' knights

While the Century girls were dispatching Winters Mill this past Tuesday, the Knights boys were doing the same to the Falcons.

Century improved to 13-2 overall and 8-1 in county play with the 66-34 victory over visiting Winters Mill, the Knights' second consecutive win after back-to-back defeats to traditional regional powers South Carroll and Middletown.

"I didn't expect us to be this successful this early," said boys' head coach George Wunder, who guided Century to a 22-3 record and a Class 2A West regional championship in the 2008-09 campaign. "We only brought back three players from last year's team, and I thought we would struggle early.

"Before the season, we knew we had some kids who could shoot the basketball and create for others, but we had some concerns about our defense and rebounding. But we've played well defensively as a group, and the rebounding has been strong," Wunder said.

A Feb. 10 rematch with South Carroll will likely determine the county champion, and have a significant effect on the seeding for the Class 2A West regional playoffs. The Cavaliers handed Century its only county loss on Jan. 13, trouncing the host Knights, 52-30.

Wunder's team played its customary strong defense, but a rare poor shooting effort by the Knights affected the outcome. Century followed the loss to South Carroll with a defeat at Middletown.

Despite the midseason losses, Wunder remains optimistic the Knights can make a run at a regional title and a return to the state tournament.

"This team has to approach it a little differently than our 2008-09 team, which had great guard play and great inside play," Wunder said. "As long as they continually learn how to feed off one another and use each other's strengths, the potential is there to make that run.

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