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Lions are cubs of 2A semis

March 13, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

WALKERSVILLE, Md. - They are the new kids on the block.

When the Walkersville Lions trot onto the floor Friday at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, they'll have absolutely zero history in the girls state basketball tournament, while each of their counterparts sport some past experience.

The Lions, fresh off their 60-45 regional title victory over Middletown Saturday, tip off at 3 p.m. against the Aberdeen Eagles (14-10), a state final four team a year ago. At 5 p.m. DuVal (20-2) goes against Catonsville (16-7). The winners return Saturday for a 1 p.m. championship game.

DuVal, the defending 2A champ, is making its 11th trip to the Final Four and has seven state crowns while Catonsville is looking for its first title in its seventh appearance. This is Aberdeen's second trip to the finals.

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Not only are the Lions the "newbies," but they may also not be getting a lot of respect.

"I really don't know about them," Aberdeen coach Brandi Barnes said. "I had to get on the Internet to see who they were and where Walkersville is."

With a December holiday loss to Holy Cross the lone blemish on a slate that shows 22 victories, Walkersville is in a position to begin the process of getting respect.

Mike Mathis took over the program six years ago with a goal of making progress.

"Each year the program has gotten better," Mathis said. "We've tried to instill hard work ethics, practice hard and be good each year, but I'm not sure we even got respect this year."

The Lions, after an upset loss to Middletown in the regional finals last year, returned six letterwinners and 85% of their scoring.

"We were optimistic at the beginning of the year and we've accomplished two of our goals winning the MVAL and the regional," Mathis said.

Among those leading the charge has been the Lions' lone senior, tri-captain Koffi Harrison, who averages 12 points, 10 rebounds and two steals.

"We thought at the beginning of the year if we worked hard, we could get to states," Harrison said. "As a team we talked about each game like we were playing for state."

The junior class has been supreme for the Lions.

Chelsea Trout leads the team in scoring at 15.9 per game and adds six rebounds. D.J. Vernoy averages nine points and five assists. Gina Casadei averages eight points and five rebounds and Emily Lancaster has become something of a defensive specialist.

"So many have contributed this year that can hurt you," Mathis said. "It's like picking your poison."

The Eagles do not have a double-figure average player and rely on their defense to ignite the offense, according to Barnes, in her second year as head coach.

Tameka McDonald, a 5-foot-5 point guard averaging 8.5 points, sparked Aberdeen in the regional final with an 18-point, seven-assist, seven-steal performance against Easton and is one of three key juniors. Others are 5-11 guard-forward Rudi Johnson (9.5 ppg) and 5-7 guard Nikita Bell, whom Barnes says is the Eagles' defensive specialist.

"We just have to go out and play our kind of game against Aberdeen," Mathis said. "At this time of year you do what has gotten you here."

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