Victory sweet music to HCC

March 09, 1999|By BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

FREDERICK, Md. - The celebration had not begun. For the Hagerstown Community College women's basketball team, there was that formality of putting the icing on the cake.

One second remained on the clock Sunday as Frederick's Lolita Turner drained two free throws. But they only made the score 66-63. HCC, for the second time this season, had beaten the Cougars for a crown - this one for the Region XX title and a chance at being the best in the NJCAA's Division II.

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Never mind the fact that the national tournament will be played on the Hawks' home floor. The end result was sweet music that coach Marlys Palmer began orchestrating after the team's disappointing region tournament last year.

And although she has never bragged about being a musician, Palmer, in her 20th year at HCC, may have produced her greatest masterpiece.


"This is the best team I have ever coached in my 20 years here," Palmer said after the Hawks won their first region title since 1983.

Although HCC basketball fans can go back and remember the droves of great players who have come through Palmer's highly successul program, few will argue with Palmer's rave review.

After disappointing losses in the region and conference tournaments the past several seasons, Palmer went on the recruiting road and carefully began blending a team of talent and that quality all musicians must have - perfect timing.

"We had different people come through for us in the clutch every game," assistant coach Kathy Hammond said. "It was fun wondering who it would be this time."

The Hawks won't produce the flashiest piece of work ever seen, but it contains all the fundamentals of time-tested success.

The inside people are board bashers. Molly Schoenberg and Tia Ferguson are dominant forces underneath, while Stacy Zeger and hot-shooting Quitta Scott give a different look to opponents. Include Shay Bailey, and the Hawks have turned in 50-plus rebound games, and one where they grabbed a WNBA-like 62 boards.

But for all the big instruments, the Hawks still need their conductor. Sophomore Judy Zimmerman's biggest job is to keep the proper tempo with freshman guards Kaylene Taylor and Shanna Williams.

"If anything, she worries about controlling things she doesn't have to control," Palmer said. "We need Judy to show up every game with her brand of basketball."

Through all these different chords of personality, Palmer saw exactly what the finished product could turn out to be.

"Our coaching staff (Hammond and Sabrina Resh) told them every day, if they just thought they were as good as we knew they were, there would be nothing stopping them," Palmer said.

And now, Palmer's symphony will play on the biggest stage of all at the national tournament.

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