Women's junior college tournament preview

March 13, 2000|By BOB PARASILITI

The Frederick Community College women's basketball team is guided by the power of suggestion.

Coach Jack Mehl uttered one line to his Cougars and its worked as well as a post-hypnotic trance.

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"We lost to Lackawanna on Dec. 27 and I told the kids that we weren't going to lose anymore," Mehl said. "We've won 17 straight."

The Cougars, who are now 26-4 and unbeaten in the new century, get to see how strong Mehl's words are starting Wednesday as one of 12 teams chasing a national title at the Women's Division II National Tournament at Hagerstown Community College's athletic complex.

Frederick will face Shelton State Community College of Tuscaloosa, Ala., at 8 p.m. to complete the opening round of four games in the double-elimination tournament. Shelton State (17-14) is a surprise entrant in the tournament after upsetting Northwest-Shoals in the District K final.


But surprises are the nature of tournament basketball. In most cases, teams know little about their opponents, like Mehl.

"I haven't found out anything about them," he said. "I need to at least see a roster, but hey, you have to play them all sooner or later if you're going to go for the title."

The 12-team field features six teams from the Division II Top 15 and two others - one of which is Frederick - which have received votes. There are five of the top 10 offensive teams (the Cougars are seventh) and Frederick is one of the two top 10 defensive teams in the nation represented in the field.

The Cougars also boast the nation's 10th leading scorer in point guard Dani Thomas, who was Maryland state and Region XX tournament MVP, at 19.2 points per game. The only other top scorer in the field is Sarah Craft of Mitchell (Conn.) College.

"We lost four games this year - to Louisburg, Monroe, Genesee and Lackawanna," Mehl said. "We play to make get to the national tournament and you have to play against good competition to get there."

Case in point, Monroe is ranked No. 2 and in the tournament field. Lackawanna was No. 13 and Genesee received votes, but didn't make the field.

Frederick controlled the Maryland JuCo conference and defeated HCC three times, including in the Region XX final on March 5, to earn its fifth trip to the nationals and first since 1997.

"We had a real nice team in 1995 when we made it, but this year's team has a lot more weapons than we had back then," Mehl said. "This year we have had seven or eight different players score in double figures."

Two key players joining Thomas is swing player Dishawn King, who won first team all Maryland JuCo honors, and Ebony Bowers, a 5-foot-7 post player who earned recognition on the all-state and all-region teams.

The Cougars' 17-game winning streak will be tested by Phoenix (Ariz.) College, the nation's top-ranked team, Monroe, No. 5 Illinois Central, No. 6 Mitchell, No. 9 South Suburban (Ill.) College and No. 14 Penn Valley (Mo.).

The tournament opens at noon on Wednesday with games following at 2 and 6 before Frederick and Shelton State meet at eight. Four teams receive first-round byes.

With unknown opponents lurking around every corner, Mehl can only make sure the Cougars take care of themselves to have a chance to keep the record in 2000 unblemished.

"We've talked about the keys to winning," Mehl said. "They are rebounding, making foul shots and playing good defense. That's what you need to be successful in any game, but especially in tournaments. There is a major importance of winning that first game."

Opening round games

South Suburban (Ill.) College (25-8) vs. Iowa Central (25-5), noon

Illinois Central (28-5) vs. Lake Michigan College (15-14), 2

Columbus (Ohio) State (22-9) vs. Monroe (NY) C.C. 30-2, 6

Shelton (Ala.) State (17-14) vs. Frederick C.C. (26-4), 8

First round byes

Johnson City (Kan.) (19-13), Phoenix (Ariz.) College (26-5), Mitchell (Conn.) College (29-1), Penn Valley (Mo.) C.C. (25-6).

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