Pocomoke standing in the way of Huskies run to state basketball title

Game is 7 p.m. Friday in Towson

The Patterson Mill girls basketball team is no stranger to the Maryland State Basketball Tournament.

The Huskies made four straight trips to the four-team tourney in late winters of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. All four appearances came in the Class 2A bracket, with the Huskies winning the state title in '14 and '15.

Friday's trip will be a little strange, as it comes in the Class 1A bracket with a matchup against East region champion Pocomoke. The two will tangle in the first of two semifinals at 7 p.m. in the SECU Arena at Towson University.

Southern-Garrett and Southwestern will battle in the other semifinal at 9 p.m. The winners will meet at 6 p.m. Saturday for the 1A state championship.

Patterson Mill's run of four consecutive trips ended last year in the 1A North region tourney as the powerhouse Forestville team was en route to its second straight 1A title.

Pocomoke is on a little run of its own. The Warriors, under first year head coach Corey Zimmer, are back in the semis for the third straight season and after a 4-8 start, the Warriors have gone 10-1.

"Coming into the year, I really hoped to play man to man, but we've got such a young team," Zimmer said. "We graduated four of our five starters from last year, so when I tried to introduce it to the girls and get them going with it a little bit, there were still a lot of girls that weren't quite sure where to be."

That said, the Warriors have been playing a 2-3 zone most of the year. Zimmer says they will press a little bit, looking to cause a bit of chaos.

"Defensively, we try to stay aggressive, get steals when we can, and get it up the court as quickly as possible and get an easy layup," Zimmer said.

"Offensively, I kind of stole it a little bit from Gino Auriemma at UConn," Zimmer added. "I've watched them run a four-high offense, trying to set back picks and get layups that way and it's worked a little bit these past couple of games, but we mainly just try to run kind of a pass, pick away offense, looking to get it inside, look to get fouled, look to get layups, try to get the easy points when we can."

Leading the Warriors are junior Piajah Johnson, a 6-1 center who averages 9.7 points per game.

"If we kept track of rebounds, she is easily a double-digit rebounder each game," Zimmer said. "She's a force inside and really stepped up her play this year."

DeShonda Dennis, a 5-7 senior captain, averages 9.5 points per game.

"Coming into the year, she was telling me that she wasn't really a scorer, she was all about defense," Zimmer said. "And I said, looking at what we've got, we're definitely going to need you to be a scorer."

Zimmer has not seen Patterson Mill play and knows very little about the Huskies.

"All I know really, is they're 24-0, 24-1, something like that. They've kind of blown people out on the way to this point," Zimmer said. "You can only gauge so much from stats. My hope going into it is that they see the 14-9 record. I definitely know it's going to be an uphill battle, we're the underdog, which we love being that role, but I'm just looking forward to Friday night and hoping that our girls come out and play their basketball and keep it competitive."

Zimmer says he was told by some that the Warriors would be lucky to win five games this year because of the losses to graduation last season.

"I just looked at them and said, regardless of who we lose or who we bring in, it doesn't change what we're trying to do here at Pocomoke, we're trying to win basketball games," Zimmer said. "I'm not using anything as an excuse, I want to try and win a region title to start. I knew we were capable of doing it, it's just a matter of the girls buying in and really playing their basketball."

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