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Court's in session - Fun and games end when Leopards hit floor

March 05, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

SMITHSBURG - Off the court, the Smithsburg girls basketball team acts like it's at a slumber party gone haywire: constant chattering, gossiping, laughing out loud, playfully pushing each other around.

"We all get along real well," senior guard Eariel Gholson said. "Sure, everybody has their days, but we're good. And they always make fun of me."

Just stay away from the pillowfights.

On the court, the Leopards are a take-no-prisoners bunch who haven't backed down from anyone on their way to a berth in Friday's Class 1A state semifinals at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

"We'll yell at each other out there," Gholson said. "But it stays on the court. Off the court, we're cool."

The Leopards are officially the hip cats of the playoffs, thanks to Friday's 56-52 victory over previously undefeated Southern Garrett in the West regional final. Smithsburg got huge contributions from its big names and its supporting cast to pull off the win, one that sent it to its first state semifinal since 1983.

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"They respect each other's abilities," coach Teresa Bachtell said. "They're real good with that, and they're great at playing their roles. They play team ball to a fault sometimes, but they've learned that what happens on the court isn't personal."

And while giggling and playing pranks can be their forte, this bunch of basketball players gets awfully serious in a hurry.

"You could feel the electricity on Friday," coach Jimmy Powell said. "But you could just see in the locker room that they were all eyes and ears and ready to accept a challenge."

"I was telling (Katy Powell) in the bus on the way up that I just had a feeling, one like I'd never had before a game," Gholson said.

"Yeah," Katy responds. "She's having a feeling and we're 21-3."

By the end of the night, the Leopards were 22-3.

"There was a lot of pressure," senior point guard Jenelle Stouffer said. "We'd gotten to the regional final so many times and lost. This one, we won."

And while the game was incredibly important, so were several tales from the post-game dinner runs, told in great detail right down to the missing burritos.

After the season's over, they'll become good stories for the slumber party.

Maybe they can throw in one about a state championship, too.

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