The Magic could have used some this week.

The Magic, Maryland's entry at the Amateur Athletic Union's Junior Olympics national 15-and-under girls basketball tournament in Charleston, W.Va., returned homeyesterday after being eliminated by Southern Pacific (Calif.) Mondaynight, 66-46.

The team, mostly from Mount Hebron and Hammond high schools, wentinto the tournament with admittedly modest expectations. After qualifying for the nationals three months ago by winning the state AAU tournament, the Magic had been hampered by several drawbacks.

Emily Yanero, a starting shooting guard from Hebron who played extremely well during the state tournament, was sick and could not make the trip to Charleston. Kristen Moraz, a guard/forward from Hammond, was only six weeks removed from arthroscopic knee surgery. And the team had notpracticed as an 11-player unit since winning the state tournament.

Still, the Magic has reason to feel good about its trip, since it bounced back from a 32-point loss in its opening game Saturday to beatUtah, 62-55, on Sunday.

"It was disappointing, but our kids played well and they played hard," said Magic assistant coach Jim McCauley, whose daughter, Erica -- Hebron's star junior point guard -- had a great tournament. She led the Magic with 49 points in the three games, including a 21-point, six-assist, four-rebound effort Monday against Southern Pacific.

"We missed layups and other easy shots that refused to go in, but athletically, they (Southern Pacific) were just better than us," Coach McCauley said. "We've got to feel good that we didn't get shut out. The kids got some exposure. And for a team that hadn't practiced much together and was missing a sick player, we did well. Losing Emily was a key. Our team wasn't quite the same without her."

The Magic especially felt Yanero's absence Monday. Behind McCauley's 14 first-half points, the Magic played Southern Pacific to a16-16 tie midway through the first half. But while Magic forwards Kris Bryant and Tesha Nixon were in foul trouble, Southern Pacific wentto a full-court press and smothered the Magic offense. Southern-Pacific went on a 15-0 run, took a 37-24 halftime lead and never looked back.

"They (Southern Pacific) were picking Erica up right off the inbounds pass," McCauley said. "She had trouble getting off a shot after that."

The Magic had looked ready for a weekend trip home after losing, 67-35, to Massachusetts on Saturday. But they regrouped Sunday to defeat Utah behind a balanced attack. McCauley led the winningeffort with 19 points and four assists, while Bryant, a junior forward at Hebron, scored 16 and grabbed nine rebounds. Sonia Keiner, a sophomore forward at Hammond, scored 10 points and had eight rebounds. Kacey Williams (eight points, three assists) and Moraz (six points, four rebounds), both guards from Hammond, also contributed.

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