The lights were turned off and the air conditioning was shut down for the evening. The once-cozy gymnasium had become a sweatbox.

About the only person not complaining was Ed McDonald, who slouched in the bleachers as his Annapolis All-Stars girls basketball team arrived for a Thursday scrimmage.

It's not often McDonald and assistant Pete Patterson can get everyone together at the same time and location.

Even the undesirable conditions at Anne Arundel Community College would do nicely.

Onlyone player was missing from the 14-and-under team that garnered the state Amateur Athletic Association championship in April.

The group will travel to Charleston, W.Va., Thursday through Aug. 3 for the AAU nationals, a tournament expected to attract around 50 teams.

"Ithink the only thing that's going to hurt them (at the nationals) isthey haven't worked much as a unit because of other commitments," said Tom Smith, founder and president of the All-Stars.

"Have you ever had them all to gether at one practice yet?" Smith asks McDonald, as the lights begin to brighten.

McDonald shakes his head and answers, "Probably not."

The team stayed intact long enough to defeat the Arundel Waves twice en route to the state AAU championship.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't know what to expect, and the girls didreal well," said McDonald, the girls basketball coach at Frederick Douglass High in Prince George's County.

"Our style of play was different from the Waves'. They had a zone-oriented team, and we played man-to-man. I thought that was the big difference. And I knew we had a decent team when every body was there."

The biggest difference was the All-Stars' intimidating inside game, featuring two 6-footers and three other girls at 5-10.

"They were stronger under the boardsthan we were," said Waves assistant coach Jon Hon, an Arnold resident. "We were getting one shot and they were getting four or five."

"They outran us, and they were much stronger than us," said daughter Erin Hon, 13, a Waves point guard who joined the All-Stars after the tournament. Now, she shares time in the backcourt with Michelle Salmon, a member of Old Mill High's Class 4A state championship team.

"I just think they were better skill-wise, and they worked well together," Erin Hon said. "It looked as if they had been together for a long time."

The look was deceiving. McDonald said the All-Stars were formed in March.

How does a team become cohesive in such a short time, especially when it only practices once a week and many of its players are busy with outside ventures?

"We all get along as people,not just as players. Even though we only practice once a week, it helps knowing we're friends and we get along so well," said 5-10 forward Jen Conner, 15, of Severna Park High, who just returned from a national Junior Olympic volleyball tournament in Tampa, Fla.

Pattersonsaid, "On those nights when half the team isn't there, Ed has drillsthat can apply to real-game situations. It seems to work out."

Erin Hon and Salmon left today for an Olympic Development Program regional soccer camp in Massachusetts.

Their status is uncertain for the opening game of the national tournament.

"As soon as we find outthe game time, we're going to be there. We'll leave early enough to be there," Salmon, 14, said.

McDonald hopes so. He knows solid play from the backcourt is vital. The inside game alone won't suffice.

"We're going to have to handle the pressure full-court, baseline tobaseline," he said. "If you can't handle it, you're going to be in alot of trouble."

The remainder of the Annapolis All-Stars roster includes 6-footers Drewana Bey (Frederick Douglass) and Pam Patterson(South River), Paula McDonald (South River), Kari Sherbert (Southern), Julie Barr (Broadneck), Sherrise Dowell (Calvert) and Maggie McDermath (Watkins Mill).

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