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Frederick CC seeks national title

March 20, 2001

Frederick CC seeks national title



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Wins are very important to the Frederick Community College women's basketball teams. But coach Jack Mehl can stomach a loss on one condition.

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"If someone comes up and says the team plays hard, I consider that the nicest compliment anyone can give me," Mehl said.

Now the Cougars are beginning to fish for the ultimate compliment, the one that comes when you win a national championship.

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Frederick begins its quest for that highest honor during this week's National Junior College Athletic Association tournament, which starts Wednesday at Hagerstown Community College's athletic complex. The Cougars, who play on Thursday at 4 p.m., sacrificed some wins for compliments this season just for this occasion.

"This is my 12th year of coaching at FCC and this was the most difficult schedule we have had," Mehl said. "We did it on purpose to get ready for the this part of the season."

Frederick started out by playing a tournament in Miami and a pair of games in North Carolina. The Cougars came away with a 1-4 mark for their trouble. But the lumps turned into thick skin for the battles ahead.

"Louisburg's (N.C.) coach said to me 'I know you want to win, but your team competed. That's a big thing,'" Mehl said. "Our plan was to play the best competition we could to get ready. We are about as ready as we can be."

Frederick lost only two more games on its way to a 26-6 record, the Region XX title and the region's automatic bid into the national tournament. The Cougars did it by stressing rebounding, defensive intensity and efficiently shooting foul shots.

The formula has made Frederick an more rounded team than it was last year. Star point guard Dani Thomas isn't called on the carry the team as much as to guide it.

"Dani is a special player," Mehl said. "She is only the second player we've had to go over 1,000 points in her career. This year she more of a supporting cast around her."

Thomas still is the leader, averaging 19 points with 6.5 assists and three steals per game. Meanwhile, Mindy Luckett is the only other Frederick player averaging double figures (10.7) while Toni Branson is pulling down 10 rebounds per game and Tiffany Wilson is averaging 6.5 more boards.

"Even with only two scorers in double figures, we are scoring as many points a game as we did last year," Mehl said. "Our defense is allowing 1 1/2 points less and have done that with 115 blocked shots (up from 65 last season) and with 74 more steals than turnovers. You have to take care of the ball."

Frederick will play on the second day of the tournament, facing the winner of the Penn Valley (Mo.)-Lake Land (Ill.) College in the quarterfinal round of the 12-team double-elimination tournament. Defending champion Johnson County is also in the field.

"This year, we get to see who we play before we play them," Mehl said. "We knew what we wanted to do from the beginning of the year. But when you get in the tournament, you never know what's going to happen. I like my team and I like the way we play ... we play hard all the time."

And that's a compliment.

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