1998-99 Carroll County girls basketball previews

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Carroll Christian Patriots

1997-98 record: 16-15

Coach: Matt Reisberg

Top players: Leigh Ann Belcher, Sr., 5-5, F; Crystal Dixon, Soph., 5-8, F; Katie Kirk, Jr., 5-3, G; Ashley Pickett, Soph., 5-0, G; Julie Wike, Sr., 6-1, C

Outlook: First-year coach Reisberg, who moved up after a stint ++ as an assistant, finds himself in an unusual situation -- having a terrible time deciding who will start. It wasn't much of a problem in Monday's opener, a 69-18 romp over Montrose, and for the long haul, he figures he doesn't lose anything in going nine deep among the 14 on the squad. The number itself is new, for there were only nine on the squad a year ago. Wike returns as the team's leading scorer/rebounder, and Belcher is back, having missed much of last year after blowing out a knee. Belcher, starting point guard last season, has been moved to forward to take advantage of her shooting touch. Dixon, who did not play last year, is one of the team's best ball-handlers and unquestionably its best shooter.

Francis Scott Key Eagles

1997-98 record: 16-7

Coach: Alice Smith

Top players: Melissa Merson, Sr., 5-7, G; Jen Sawyer, Jr., 5-7, G; Adria Stonesifer, Soph., 6-0, C; Sindi Stem, Sr., 5-5, G; Jessie Suter, Sr., 5-7, G

Outlook: The three seniors and Sawyer are returning starters, with Stem in her third varsity season. Stonesifer got into 21 games, averaging four points and four rebounds. Of the 10 players, six were post players as freshmen or sophomores. This gives Smith some height, but this early part of the season is a learning experience as some players adjust to different positions and roles. Aside from the five varsity returnees, three juniors are up from JV, and two of the sophomores were on a 14-0 freshman squad. A year ago, Stem, an All-County selection, was the county leader in assists, steals and three-point percentage and averaged nine points. Merson ended with averages of nine points, six rebounds. Success will likely be determined by how far this group progresses, as they blend individual skills while getting to know each other.

Liberty Lions

1997-98 record: 10-13

Coach: David Trumbo

Top players: Abby Barnett, Sr., 5-9, F; Colleen Cox, Sr., 5-8, G; Meredith Priddy, Sr., 5-11, F; Michelle Allen, Jr., 5-6, G; Jessica Rogulski, Jr., 5-11, F

Outlook: Last year, first-year coach Trumbo took a program that had won eight games in four years and won more than that with athleticism. Four starters return: Allen, Barnett, Cox and Priddy. Included are two of the county's top three scorers (Cox and Allen), the leader in field-goal percentage (Cox), and 1-2 in free-throw percentage (Allen and Cox). Barnett and Priddy were among the rebound leaders. "Cautiously optimistic" is how Trumbo sees things. "We won a lot of close games last year, and it comes down to who works the hardest. Right now, we can go 11 deep, because there are six players from a JV team that went 16-4." As a result, Trumbo has been able to toughen practices. Two things are certain -- more confidence, because those

perennial losing teams are a thing of the past, and this team will not sneak up on people, as it did a year ago.

North Carroll Panthers

1997-98 record: 9-14

Coach: Sarah Palmer

Top players: Stephanie Rogers, Sr., G; Danielle Shearer, Sr., G; Heather Easter, Jr., G; Candi Jeffery, Jr., F; Becky Wike, Soph., F

Outlook: First-year coach Palmer had 11 of her 12 players at a practice earlier this week, the most she had seen, because several did not report until the end of the soccer season. The players will have to get used to the new coach's philosophy and styles of play, and the coach will be learning some of her players' quirks. The team lost only one senior from last season's team, and several veterans have shown solid improvement. "We have some talented athletes who are working well together," Palmer says, "and in our practices, they seem to take turns picking each other up." With many of the players multi-sport athletes, they bring a strong sense of self-motivation. Four holdovers -- Rogers, Easter, Shearer and Candi Jeffery -- averaged between 7.4 and 7.8 points, and Jeffery (8.4) and Easter (7.5) were in the top four in county rebounding. Rogers was among the leaders in assists and steals and free-throw percentage, and Easter was second in field-goal percentage.

South Carroll Cavaliers

1997-98 record: 4-19

Coach: Al Skierski

Top players: Stephanie Wilson, Sr., 5-8, F; Danielle Caballero, Jr., 5-9, F; Kim Lowry, Soph., 5-5, G

Outlook: A year ago, on a team led by five seniors, scoring turned out to be a well-founded concern, because in half their games, the Cavaliers scored 35 points or less. Scoring is still the concern. "We have three players who started at various times, but we will need some consistent scorers," says Skierski, who is at work getting his holdovers and a lot of newcomers from the JV team to work as a unit. Caballero averaged seven points, seven rebounds a season ago, and now she should get more help from a group of guards who are small and quick. Three scrimmages have shown the players can shoot, but mistakes need to be pared away. Skierski says: "With only two seniors, we don't have the maturity to make good decisions. We'll do something good and then something not so good."

Westminster Owls

1997-98 record: 7-16

Coach: Sue Conklin

Top players: Kyrica Frisby, Sr., 5-7, G; Cathy Frame, Sr., 5-6, G; Kallie Smith, Sr., 5-6, F

Outlook: The leading scorer (Frisby, 9.8), leading rebounder (Smith, county-high 8.9), and a key ball-handler (Frame) from a year ago are back, and the emphasis is on looking ahead. The bonus is the second-year coach is more comfortable, and the players are more responsive. "The difference is the players know they can play now. A year ago, they weren't so sure of their abilities at this level, and they struggled through a learning experience," Conklin says. "Now, their attitudes are good, and they have picked up their intensity in practice." Several helped themselves by playing during the summer, and depth is improved from last season. In addition to six seniors, three juniors and two sophomores are expected to develop as strong players. Conklin says: "We have no superstars, so for us to be successful, we'll have to do it as a team."

Pub Date: 12/03/98

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