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Howard County team previews LOCAL SPORTS: GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEWS

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Atholton Raiders

1995-96 record: 10-12

Coach: Paul Seadler

Top players: Linda Mihelcic, 6-2, Sr., C; Katie Young, 5-11, Sr., F/C; Meagan Funches, 5-9, Jr., F; Sylvia Lin, 5-3, Sr., G; Anne Greenfield, 5-6, Jr., G.

Outlook: Seadler, Don Van Deusen's assistant last year, takes over a team with good height and "a lot of good players" who will provide him flexibility. The Raiders lost one of their top players, Caitlin Bair, to River Hill, but Seadler said the team has experience -- Mihelcic, Young and Funches started most of last year -- and good balance. Scoring, Seadler said, will come from a "real strong team effort." The main weakness early in the season will be ball-handling. "If we can learn to handle the ball in December we can be a team to be reckoned with," said Seadler, who was the JV basketball coach at Mount St. Joseph for nine years and served as the varsity assistant for seven of those seasons. Lin saw limited playing time on last year's varsity, which was seventh (4-10) in the county, while Greenfield led Atholton's JV with 15.4 points a game.

Centennial Eagles

1995-96 record: 17-7

Coach: Dave Greenberg

Top players: Meredith Price, 5-11, Sr., F; Kathleen O'Connor, 5-11, Jr., F.; Mallory Groves, 5-6, Sr., G; Michelle Kincaid, 5-6, Jr., G; Icyis Richardson, 5-8, So., G.

Outlook: The Eagles return nine players from last year's varsity, which finished in a four-way tie for second (9-4) in the county. But one of those players, point guard Kincaid, is out indefinitely with a knee injury that will require surgery. Like last year, Centennial will play tenacious defense and look to many players for points. Price, who scored 30 points in last year's league opener against Glenelg, led the Eagles in points (11.37) and rebounding (8). O'Connor became an outside threat last year, making 29 three-pointers, fourth best in the county. Richardson, who played JV football this season, has excellent potential. "She's much better than she was but still has a way to go," Greenberg said. The Eagles have a strong bench -- led by Alexia Vogler, Stacie Tokasz, Caitlin Ryland and Jessica Mentz -- and Greenberg will go to them often. He has two seniors, four juniors, five sophomores and one freshman on the team. Centennial's season opener Saturday won't be just another road game. The Eagles leave at 6: 30 a.m. Friday for a weekend trip to New York City and a game Saturday night against Christ the King High School, one of the top teams in the country.

Chapelgate Christian Flames

1995-96 record: 13-7

Coach: Ed Esbrandt

Top players: Heather Davison, 5-8, Sr., G; Anna Lohrmann, 5-11, Jr., C/F; Sarah Esbrandt, 5-3, Jr., G; Meghan Price, 5-7, So., G; Laura Starsoneck, 5-10, Fr., F; Laura Carder, 5-9, So., F.

Outlook: "I expect this team by the second half [of the season] to be a better team than last year," said Esbrandt, who has two returning starters in Davison and Lohrmann. "I think we'll be a contender in the [Christian Schools Athletic Association] playoffs." Right now, the Flames, who graduated two-thirds of their scoring offense, are not a strong shooting team, but they have good team speed and hustle on defense. Davison is a four-year starter and last year's second-leading scorer. Lohrmann led the team -- 4-4 in the league last year -- in rebounding.

Glenelg Gladiators

1995-96 record: 15-8

Coach: Ciaran Lesikar

Top players: Camey Brian, 5-10, Sr., F/C; Lauren Brown, 5-7, Sr., G.

Outlook: Lesikar, who coached the boys JV team at Oakland Mills for seven years and has coached girls in track and volleyball, will coach a girls basketball team for the first time. Only eight players tried out initially for varsity, but Lesikar, a 1984 graduate of Centennial and a special education teach at Mount View Middle, has increased the roster to 12. With Jill Younce (17 points a game) having graduated and Lauren Martin (school-record 54 three-pointers) re-districted to River Hill, the Gladiators, who finished in a four-way tie for second (9-5) last season in the county, will rely heavily on co-captains Brian and Brown. "They have to step up and provide experience, confidence and leadership," Lesikar said. Lesikar is hoping Brian, whose best scoring output last year was 12 points, can average around 15 points. "She has the ability to do that," Lesikar said. Brown will be the team's point guard. Junior Shana Wyant, who led last year's JV team with a 12-point average, has an ankle injury and is out indefinitely. "The girls are working so hard in practice," said Lesikar, whose team has three seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.

Glenelg Country School Dragons

1995-96 record: 0-14

Coach: Barb Brummett

Top players: Kim Greene, 5-6, Jr., G; Julie Everett, 5-8, Jr., F; Jordana Woodford, 5-9, Sr., C; Elena Diaz-Martin, 5-8, Sr., F; Lindsay Lehmann, 5-5, Sr., G.

Outlook: Brummett wants her players to be more offensive-minded. "Everyone needs to get in their mind that, 'I need to be a threat on offense,' " said Brummett. "We can keep teams around 30 points, but we have trouble scoring more than 30." Green, Everett, Diaz-Martin and Lehmann are returning starters. Woodford played as a freshman and sophomore but chose not to play last year. "We have the experience," Brummett said. "If we can get our offense going, I think we can finish .500 and hopefully get into the second round of the [Association of Independent Schools B Conference] playoffs."

Hammond Golden Bears

1995-96 record: 20-8

Coach: Joe Russo

Top players: Rene Hines, 6-1, Sr., F; Nicole Owe, 6-2, Sr., F; Crystal Todd, 6-1; Jr., F; Julie Moraz, 5-10, Sr., G.

Outlook: Hammond has played in a record-tying five straight Class 2A state championship games, and has the talent to do it again. The Golden Bears, who won titles in 1992, 1994 and 1995, return three starters -- Hines, Owe, Moraz -- and were fortunate to have Todd transfer from DuVal High School of Prince George's County. Todd started last year and averaged 12.5 points. She has good size and a nice touch from the outside. "I'm really optimistic," said Russo, whose team finished in a four-way tie for second (9-5) in the county last season. "We have a lot of experience and we're very tall. It's the tallest team I've had. If we get the ball inside, no one is going to stop us." Hines, a first-team All-Metro selection who has signed to attend Georgia State in Atlanta next fall, had team highs last year in scoring (18.1 points), steals (70), blocks (80) and three-pointers (32). She became the first Hammond junior to go over 1,000 points (1,046), and this season should top Tiki Nicholson's school record of 1,230 points. Hines' good ball-handling skills and vision also comes in handy when opponents press full-court. Owe has "gotten so much better," said Russo, who is in his 10th season. "Her shooting has improved, she's more aggressive and her attitude is better. She really wants to do well this season." Moraz, one of the team's inspirational leaders, has "gotten better offensively," Russo said. Julie's father, Al Moraz, an assistant coach under Russo since 1991, is now boys coach at Long Reach. "He's a big factor in our success," Russo said. "We'll miss him."

Howard Lions

1995-96 record: 13-13

Coach: Craig O'Connell

Top players: Chanelle Carter, 5-10, Sr., F; Lisa Pasteur, 5-7, Sr., F; Evelyn Nkwenti, 5-9, Jr. C; Stacey Swiney, 5-6, So., G.

Outlook: The Lions, who upset Centennial in the regions last year and reached the Class 3A state semifinals, have little depth (nine varsity players) and inexperience at point guard. Howard lost three players from last year's varsity to Long Reach, including starting point guard Thandi Howell. Howard's strength is its front-court line of Carter, Nkwenti and Pasteur. "Chanelle, Evelyn and Lisa play well together," said Howard coach Craig O'Connell, whose team finished sixth (5-9) in the county last season. Carter averaged 19.4 points, second-best in the county, and was a first-team all-county selection last year. She already has signed to attend Delaware State next year. O'Connell called Pasteur "an improved player. She really has some very nice moves near the basket." O'Connell hopes Nkwenti can average around eight points and eight rebounds per game. Swiney, who played varsity last year as a freshman, is the only experienced guard. Junior guard Melanie Godfrey also is expected to start along with Carter, Pasteur, Nkwenti and Swiney. The Lions, now in Class 2A, are known for playing well late in the season and into the playoffs.

Long Reach Lightning

1995-96 record: First year

Coach: Shanya Evans

Top players: Janean Allen, 5-2, So., G; Thandi Howell, 5-2, So., G; Demetria Hamilton, 5-7, So., G/F; LaToya Hines, 5-7, So., G/F; Latoyor Graham, 5-7, Jr., F; Sharetta Gross, 5-9; So., C.

Outlook: Evans was two-time All-Metro guard at Walbrook and went to Providence College, where she set school and national records. This is her first time coaching a high school team. Her aggressive, up-tempo approach as a player will be evident in the first-year Lightning, which has quickness but lacks height and depth. Long Reach, which has one junior, seven sophomores and five freshmen, will run and press as often as it can. It doesn't want to play half-court games. Evans is stressing fundamentals and "the heart and the hard work" it takes to become a winner. "If we play fundamentally sound and take care of ourselves, we'll be in great shape," said Evans, who is one of only two players in NCAA history to have scored over 1,000 career points and dish out over 900 assists. "Right now, we're working out the early season jitters. But as the kids work hard and start believing in themselves, we'll surprise a lot of people. We'll be a team to be reckoned with." Many Long Reach players were at Howard last year, including Allen, Howell and Hines, members of the varsity that made it to the Class 3A state semifinals. Hines blocked 39 shots last year for Howard.

Mount Hebron Vikings

1995-96 record: 12-9

Coach: Scott Robinson

Top players: Marie Staton, 5-10, Sr., C; Sommer Cork, 5-9, Sr., F; Mia Molfino, 5-2, So., G; Tracey Bounds, 5-3, Jr., G; Jill Carr, 5-6, So., G.

Outlook: Robinson is coaching a girls team for the first time after serving seven years as an assistant at Loyola High, four years as boys coach at Mount Hebron and last year as an assistant at Johns Hopkins University. Eight players return from last year's team, which finished in a four-way tie for second (9-5) in the county, but only Staton started. Staton's highest scoring effort last year was 14 points. The Vikings don't have anyone to replace county Player of the Year and All-Metro selection Alisha Mosley (29 point average), but they have a solid corps of good athletes. "We have a really good group of multi-sport athletes whose basketball skills need harnessing," said Robinson. "The attitude of the players has been tremendous. They've been very receptive to what we're doing." Robinson said he is "starting from scratch" with a new offense and defense. Robinson expects scoring to be distributed evenly. Also expected to see a lot of playing time will be freshmen Annie Collins (G/F) and Lauren Kickham (F), sophomore Becca Ferrell (G) and junior Trish Derwart (C).

Oakland Mills Scorpions

1995-96 record: 6-18

Coach: Teresa Waters

Top players: Kena Hodges, 6-2, Sr., F/C; Jamie Beale, 5-3, Jr., G; Jessica Oster, 5-8, So., G; Jennifer Johnson, 5-11, Jr., F.

Outlook: "We have the potential. It's just a matter of the girls working together as a team," said Waters, whose squad finished at the bottom of the county (1-13) standings last year. Hodges scored a school-record 35 points last year against South Carroll, and led the team in scoring average (17.8) and rebounding (11.7). Hodges, who has signed a national letter of intent to attend Furman University next fall, also had 44 blocked shots. Beale, the point guard, missed most of last season when she tore a ligament in her right knee that required surgery. She's back, but not yet in game shape, according to Waters. Junior Adrienne Butler and seniors Stephanie Romich and Nyiesha Ford, all soccer players, will see significant playing time. Juniors Doware Merchant, a 6-1 center, and guard Jaime Willard are up from the JV. Waters, who is carrying nine varsity players, said a key be making some outside shots to allow Hodges more freedom inside. "Other players are going to have to step up," said Waters, who now is teaching at River Hill. Oakland Mills will play its opener Friday at North Harford, but will forfeit the game. The Rules and Infractions Committee voted last March that Oakland Mills must forfeit its first game of the season because it conducted an out-of-season practice on March 11.

River Hill Hawks

1995-96 record: First year

Coach: Karen Saunderson

Top players: Caitlin Bair, 5-8, Jr., F; Lauren Martin, 5-7, So., G; Natalie Cox, 5-3, Jr.

Outlook: Saunderson was a three-year starter and an All-County selection at Wilde Lake before graduating in 1987. She was Atholton's assistant varsity coach for two years and later the JV coach for two seasons before taking last year off to work on her Master's degree. River Hill has a good foundation to build on with Bair, an excellent all-around player from Atholton, and Martin, who set a Glenelg school record and led the county with 54 successful three-point baskets. Cox, the point guard, is a transfer from McDonogh. "This is an aggressive team," said Saunderson, an eighth-grade science teacher at Mount View Middle. "They want to bring home the first state title for River Hill. They know this is the year to do it. We've got the talent." River Hill, a Class 1A school this year, will move to Class 2A next year. River Hill lacks height. Its tallest player is 5-foot-11 sophomore Cristin Ethridge. "We're going to emphasize defense and try to run," Saunderson said.

Wilde Lake Wildecats

1995-96 record: 15-9

Coach: Kelly Storr

Top players: Lashon White, 5-6, Jr., G/F; Toni White, 5-5, Jr., G; Bridget White, 5-11, Jr., F; Jessie Roy-Harrison, 6-0, Jr., C; Alicia Bates, 5-10, Jr., F.

Outlook: The defending county champions (10-4) have 11 juniors and one sophomore, and return three starters -- forward Bridget White and twin guards Lashon and Toni White. Toni led the Wildecats in scoring last year with a 13.6 average, including a county-high 36-point effort in a playoff victory against Glenelg, and Lashon was second at 11.3. Their ability to score and overall skills make them the top backcourt in the county. Bridget White will be counted on to do many things the graduated Adrean Mabry did, including playing aggressively inside. Mabry was the second-leading rebounder last year, and White was the sixth, averaging nine per game. Storr said Roy-Harrison has "an awesome shot" and wants her to shoot more this season. Storr said that Bates was the most improved player over the summer and that the Wildecats "definitely need her to step us this season." Can Wilde Lake repeat as county champions? "We're capable," said Storr. "We have everything that it takes to be a good team. All the parts are there. All we need to do is put the pieces together." The Wildcats have one of the best benches in the county, led by Stefanie Bessett and Katie Troutman. "This is probably our best bench that we've had," said Storr, now in her fifth season.

Pub Date: 12/04/96

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