History is now Pats' top subject

March 09, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

This making history stuff is getting addictive for Thomas Johnson's girls basketball team.

First the Patriots (20-5) wrapped up their first MVAL Chesapeake Conference title. Then TJ claimed its first regional title in 15 years with a 39-36 victory over defending region champion Woodlawn in Saturday's Maryland Class 4A North final.

Patriots coach Amy Schmuck hopes it's just a start on the road to much bigger things - starting with Thursday's Class 4A semifinal against South River (20-5) at 5 p.m. at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

"The kids are so excited, they come to practice and they're focused," Schmuck said in a phone interview Tuesday. "They're very serious. They want to win. We're going in there with the attitude that we have nothing to lose. We've accomplished so much this season, why not go for everything? I think we have the potential to walk out of there with the state title."


It all starts with the Patriots' statistical leaders - junior Nia Josiah and sophomore Kem Wilson.

Josiah - a Street & Smith All-America honorable mention selection while playing for Urbana her freshman and sophomore years - averages 20 points and eight rebounds per game. Wilson - A Herald-Mail All-Area selection as a freshman last season - adds 17 points and nine rebounds per game.

"When it comes to Kem and Nia, they're the most talented players I've ever had," Schmuck said. "They can score, drive, shoot from outside. They have moves, and it's difficult for people to guard them."

The two stars are aided by a talented supporting cast led by point guard Erin Dickman, who averages seven points, 5.5 rebounds and four assists per game as the only senior in the starting five.

"I'm looking for leadership from Erin," Schmuck said. "She's our senior captain, our point guard and assists leader. She controls everything everyone does."

Sophomore Adrienne Donelson has made a large impact in her first season, steadying TJ's inside game with seven points and eight rebounds per game.

"Adrienne's huge inside," Schmuck said. "She didn't have any experience, and she walked on this year as a sophomore and stepped it up. She had 15 rebounds against Woodlawn, and that's huge for a sophomore."

Tierra Bowie joined the team at the midway point and has provided extra scoring (6.5 points) and defensive help (4.5 rebounds, 3 steals) as the young Patriots gelled into a formidable opponent.

"That's the one thing I was a little nervous about, is being so young, whether we'd have the confidence to step up and play these teams," Schmuck said. "My kids have proven they can step up and play with them."

The challenges don't get any easier. South River, a guard-oriented team which averages about 60 points per game, will likely try to turn Thursday's semifinal into a fast-paced affair.

"Basically we're going to try to pack in the zone and make them shoot from the outside and take away their running game," Schmuck said. "A lot of (their offense) is from running and putting on the press. ... If our girls are patient on offense, we score. When we rush things and move too quickly, we turn the ball over. If we come out with turnovers early and the other team picks up off of them and scores, it could change the pace of the game."

It's been a long time since Thomas Johnson's girls basketball team has had this much reason to celebrate. The Patriots hope they have a few more reasons after Thursday.

"We made history at TJ winning the conference and regional championships, and these next two games are their bonus," Schmuck said. "It's going to be a tough game to win Thursday, but I think my kids are ready to go."

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