After wait, Lions roar

March 05, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

WALKERSVILLE, Md. - A near-perfect record with a second-straight Monocacy Valley Athletic League title and a Herald-Mail No. 1 ranking.

Big deal.

That was all "preseason" stuff to the Walkersville girls basketball team.

That's probably why the Lions, fresh off a first-round bye, were all business in their Maryland Class 2A West Region quarterfinals game against visiting Hammond on Tuesday night.

The eighth-seeded Bears (4-17) never had a chance, as top-seeded Walkersville (20-1) laid into them for a 56-23 victory.

"We've been patiently waiting for this day," said Lions junior guard Chelsea Trout, who led all scorers with 14 points. "Everything's been preseason until now."


A 46-44 loss to Middletown in last year's regional semifinals has made it an even longer wait for Walkersville, which returns to the semis Thursday. The Lions will host fourth-seeded Fort Hill (a 78-44 quarterfinal winner over North Hagerstown) at 7 p.m.

"It's been on our minds every game we play," said Trout of last year's playoff exit. "Come Thursday, we just want to win."

A Walkersville win never seemed in doubt Tuesday, as the hosts led 13-2 after four minutes and 28-13 at the break. Any remaining hopes of a Hammond second-half comeback then vanished without a trace, as the Bears were shut out 15-0 in the third period.

The Lions' man-to-man defense never ceased fire, while their offense - which got the job done mostly in transition in the first half - found a rhythm in the second half in the tune of 13 of 28 shooting.

Junior guard D.J. Vernoy finished with 10 points and six assists for Walkersville, while senior forward Koffi Harrison had eight points and 11 rebounds and junior guard Gina Casadei had eight points and nine rebounds.

"We just came out in the second half and turned the defensive pressure up a little bit, and our offense started clicking," said Lions coach Mike Mathis. "If you play great defense, you have a chance to win almost every game you play."

Hammond, held to 10 of 41 shooting, got a team-high seven points from junior guard Chanel Paye.

"It was easy, but really emotionally draining because it was the playoffs," Trout said. "One loss and you go home."

Fort Hill is up next. The last time the teams met was in last year's regional quarterfinals, with the Lions prevailing in a 41-39 overtime thriller.

"This is what we've been working for. Preseason's over," said Mathis. "Thursday is what it's all about."

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