Seniors lead Leopards' way

December 13, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

For better and for worse, Monday night's girls basketball matchup between Smithsburg and St. Maria Goretti at the Gael Center highlighted the tendencies of early-season hoops.

First, the worse: There were plenty of turnovers - 55 combined between the two teams, a result of each squad's full-court pressure.

Now, the better: As teams try to get on the same page in the first few games, coaches often turn to the seniors to show the way. On Monday, the Leopards were led to victory by two of them - Tara Bywaters and Kenzie Bowen.


Bywaters scored eight of her 12 points in the first half to help Smithsburg erase an early 8-2 deficit, and as the rest of the Leopards' offense sputtered in the third quarter, Bowen stepped up and scored all but one of her 12 points in the second half to finish off a 41-25 triumph over the Gaels.

"That's what you expect out of your seniors," Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes said. "Tara got us going in the first half, and Kenzie picked us up in the second half. That's what seniors do."

Erica DiMercurio and Sarah Spierenburg scored four points each in the opening four minutes as Goretti (4-2) took the early six-point lead. Behind two Bywaters baskets, Smithsburg (2-0) wiped the lead out with an 8-0 run to close the quarter.

The Leopards outscored the Gaels 11-5 in the second quarter, with Bywaters right in the middle of it.

Bywaters found Laura Sudec inside twice for baskets and closed the first-half scoring with two free throws.

Goretti had an opportunity to make a game of it in the third quarter, unleashing a 1-2-1-1 zone press that gave Smithsburg fits. The Leopards committed nine turnovers in the period while getting off only six shots - making just one. But the Gaels' own offensive struggles kept them from getting closer than four points, and Bowen made the one field goal hurt, scoring in transition while getting fouled and making the free throw for a three-point play.

Bowen scored six points in the fourth quarter, while Smithsburg's own zone - this one a trapping man-to-man variety - harassed the Gaels into 12 turnovers. The Leopards iced the game with a 10-0 run to take a 37-22 lead.

Smithsburg made just 15 of 52 shots - a mediocre 29 percent - but won the rebounding battle 35-22 and forced the Gaels into their own nightmares on offense (10-for-36 shooting, 28 percent, 30 turnovers).

"We did struggle offensively, but we have a team full of players who play hard on defense and who rebound," Fowkes said. "It was a struggle on offense, but that's the area you work on early in the season."

"The basket had a lid on us," Gaels coach Todd Rideout said. "We couldn't do anything offensively at all. Right now we're just trying to find ourselves."

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