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Lions to face 'best public-school team in the state'

March 11, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Of all the boys basketball teams which will make the trip to the University of Maryland's Comcast Center this weekend, the task facing Walkersville is arguably the toughest.

That's what happens when your reward for squeaking past Middletown in the Class 2A West final is the right to play an undefeated Potomac squad with, in Lions coach Bruce Zimmerman's words, "three potential Division I players."

"They are probably the best public-school team in the state in any classification, so we have our hands full," said Zimmerman of today's 7 p.m. meeting in the Class 2A semifinals.

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Six-foot-8 senior Dante Cunningham (19 points, 13 rebounds per game) has already committed to Villanova, while senior point guard Donald Kirk (13 points, eight assists) and junior shooting guard Bobby Shannon (24 points, 10 rebounds) join with Cunningham to make Potomac (25-0) this year's juggernaut.

"I told the kids they were good. I don't think they understand how good," Zimmerman said. "We have to take care of the ball and rebound. We cannot turn over the ball. If we do, it could get ugly. If we hold onto the ball and play good defense, I think we have a shot."

Walkersville (21-4) overcame Middletown 49-47 in a defensive struggle won by Luther Weedon's last-second basket to make it to Comcast.

"Beating Middletown in the regional final made it sweeter," Zimmerman said. "I've been in lot of big games, but that was amazing."

The Lions will need another amazing performance today if they are to have any shot at making the state final Saturday. Walkersville must have big games from everyone, especially seniors Weedon and Chris Hannigan.

Weedon (22 points per game) - one of the area's most prolific scorers this season - connected on 75 3-pointers in the regular season, shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc. He's also made more forays inside as of late.

"Luther's been much better lately," Zimmerman said. "He's looking to dribble-penetrate, he's dishing the ball off and the other guys are getting some easy looks."

Hannigan (15.5 points, nine rebounds) beats teams inside and outside. The 6-7 swingman has the size to post up and the shooting touch (32-for-87, 37 percent from 3-point range in the regular season) to extend the defense.

"Luther gets the headlines, but I think Chris is the most underrated player in the area," Zimmerman said. "He doesn't get enough credit from a lot of the basketball people in the area. He's got all the skills, he can put the ball on the floor, shoot, post up on you. He has all the skills neccessary to be a great basketball player."

Role players Brandon Geppert (nine points, five rebounds), Jabari Brown (8.5 points, six rebounds) and Naquan Brown (six points, five rebounds) will prove critical if the Lions are to stay competitive with Potomac.

"Geppert and (Jabari) Brown, later in the season and in the playoffs, have been outstanding," Zimmerman said. "Brandon's a third-year starter. As a sophomore he was a point guard, and now he's our starting center. He's a football player and he gives us our toughness. ... Naquan is a great defender who can knock down the mid-range jump shot and he can jump out of the gym."

Beating Middletown helped the Lions push further into the past the blowout loss to South Hagerstown in last year's regional final, while giving the Lions the opportunity to experience Comcast firsthand.

"I've been here three years and have had these seniors for three years, and it's a great way to finish their careers," Zimmerman said. "I feel tickled to death not just for the whole team but also for the seniors."

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