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Hawks accept unfamiliar role as underdog

February 22, 2001

Hawks accept unfamiliar role as underdog



By BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent


Things couldn't be better for Hagerstown Community College women's basketball coach Marlys Palmer as the Hawks prepare for the Maryland JuCo tournament at Garrett Community College this weekend.

Well, maybe just a tad better.

But while Palmer has heard the old expression "you can't have your cake and eat it too," she hopes a series of injuries and a lower than normal seeding doesn't make the Hawks any less hungry.

HCC enters the tournament without the services of sophomore Amy Fischer because of a stress fracture to her foot, while several other key players battle other maladies.

In seasons past, the Hawks have been use to feasting through the opening rounds of this tournament and being around for dessert. But in this tournament draw, if HCC is to get past the appetizer, they will have to be plenty hungry.

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Hagerstown is the No. 6 seed in the 10-team field and opens tournament play Friday at 2 p.m. against No. 3 seed Prince George's, a team HCC lost to in the early season. Winning only puts them into a possible rematch with No. 2 seed Frederick, a team that beat the Hawks decisively in January.

But Palmer sees the challenge as a refreshing approach for her team.

"We have the best scenario we could have expected," Palmer said. "We are getting a chance to avenge an earlier loss, and we are confident we can match up well with Prince George's."

The Hawks( - , - JuCo) closed out the 2000-01 campaign winning eight in a row despite suffering from less than stellar shooting. HCC has gone back to the basics - good defense and tenacious rebounding - to gain extra chances at scoring.

The combination has been perfect, keeping the Hawks rolling over the last month of the season.

"We are winning in spite of being a weak shooting team," Palmer said."Our defensive play and the fact we have cut our turnovers in half keeps us in a position to win consistently."

In fact, the Hawks are averaging just under 50 rebounds a game during the winning streak, while cutting the turnover average from 24 to 12 per game.

"Turnovers can kill your offense and are usually the result of poor shooting," Palmer said.

But HCC is taking shots. The Hawks have averaged 85 shots a game and threw up a whopping 91 against Potomac State in their last regular season game.

"We are gaining patience," Palmer said. "Overall, we are playing well and together."

A key to HCC's season ending resurgence can, in a large part, be credited to the play of Boonsboro's Robin Curley. Curley has stepped up - especially when the Hawks suffered illness and injury - to rally HCC to a higher level.

She is shooting 50 percent from the floor and has recorded five straight double-doubles.

"Robin, along with Vennece Fowlkes' return from the flu, will be a tremendous help to us in this tournament," Palmer said. "Robin has been a pleasant surprise and Vennece is playing at the level we knew she could."

Fowlkes is averaging 10 rebounds a game for the Hawks.

Palmer is also pleased with the guard play of South Hagerstown's Brooke Russ and Emily Middlekauff and Smithsburg's Rachel Bachtell.

"They are doing a nice job running the offense and making our other players more comfortable out there," Palmer said.

But best of all, the Hawks have a history of hard-nosed tournament performance on their side.

"This team has ability and confidence," Palmer said. "Our 40-point win over Pittsburgh after they beat us soundly at the beginning of the season gave these kids a measuring stick of how far they have come. We plan on going to Garrett and playing tough."

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