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Defense drives Lions into final

March 13, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

CATONSVILLE, Md. - The Walkersville girls basketball team has been driven by one single word this season: Defense.

The Lions used their defense in trademark fashion Friday and took City College to school, claiming a 46-33 victory in the Maryland Class 2A state semifinal at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County's RAC Arena and putting themselves in position to defend the championship they won last year.

"Defense wins championships," Walkersville's Chelsea Trout said. "Our offense is off and on, but our defense is always there."

It was there from the very beginning for the Lions, who moved to 26-0 this season while winning their 46th consecutive game. Walkersville, the only undefeated team in Maryland basketball, tries to complete the perfect season today at 1 p.m., against Potomac, a 69-44 winner over Stephen Decatur.

Walkersville's swarming halfcourt defense kept City so confused, the Knights couldn't run their offense or square up for shots most of the night.

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"That's how we win basketball games," Walkersville coach Mike Mathis said. "We got out there and they didn't get many open looks. They hit some bombs to keep them in the game, but I was happy with the defense."

If Walkersville was looking to make a statement, it said all it needed to in the first 2 minutes, 5 seconds. The Lions forced the Knights into 30-second shot clock violations on each of their first three possessions.

"It was awesome the way we came out," Walkersville's Gina Casadei said. "They lost a lot of confidence. Our defense is always there."

Walkersville's defense helped cover its sluggish offense in the opening minutes. Emily Lancaster scored all three points to give the Lions a 3-0 lead with 4:24 remaining in the quarter. After City scored, the Lions ran off the next 10 points, including five by D.J. Vernoy, to take a 13-2 advantage.

Trout, the Lions' leading scorer, didn't crack the scorebook until driving to the basket for Walkersville's 13th point with 42 seconds left in the first quarter. She went on to quietly score a game-high 13 as Walkersville consistently broke City's pressing defense for a number of easy baskets to offset any shooting woes.

"It just turned into that kind of game," Mathis said. "They didn't want to see our halfcourt sets. We like to think that the teams we play haven't seen defense like this."

Trout scored eight of Walkersville's next 12 points as the Lions took a 25-11 lead, their biggest of the game. City managed to score the final four points of the half, keyed by Tenisha Smith's 3-pointer, to trail 27-17 at the half.

City entered the game allowing 28.8 points per game.

City, which rode a 21-game winning streak into the semifinals, scored the first basket of the second half. But Walkersville ran off a 6-0 run and cruised to a berth in the finals.

Casadei scored 11 for the Lions.

Now, the Lions need their defense to come through one more time. But Walkersville is trying to play down the possibility of finishing with an undefeated record.

"I'm not really thinking about it," Casadei said. "It's going to be my last game here. I think we just have to come in and do what we can."

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