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Maidens' turnaround a 3-year process

January 11, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

If ever a team earned the right to enjoy an 11-1 start, it's Waynesboro's top-ranked girls basketball team.

Two years ago, coach Doug Stuart made the decision to play mostly sophomores and freshmen to get them experience at the varsity level. They finished 2-22.

"We brought them up and they played every minute of every game and took their lumps," Stuart said.

Waynesboro started to reap the benefits of the move last season, as the Maidens finished 12-13, qualified for the Mid-Penn Conference playoffs and earned a spot in a PIAA District 3 play-in game - accomplishments no Maidens team in recent memory had achieved.

"They took a stride last year with 12 wins, and this year they're just putting it all together," Stuart said.

Waynesboro leads the Mid-Penn Capital with a 6-0 record. The Maidens defeated Big Spring (10-4, 5-1) 43-38 at home on Dec. 19 and blasted Shippensburg (8-8, 4-2) 60-25 on the road on Dec. 17. Waynesboro will face Shippensburg on Monday and Big Spring on Wednesday, and a sweep will all but lock up the Capital title.

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"They go into games now with the attitude that they can win," Stuart said. "Even when they've been behind, they knew they could come back. Winning breeds confidence. ... We're finding ways to win basketball games and we're not panicking or turning the ball over. It's amazing what confidence can do.

"With the year we had last year - we went places last year Waynesboro hasn't been in long time - we've set our goals a lot higher this year. Number one, we want to win the Mid-Penn Capital. We want a higher seed in district play, we don't want to be in the play-in game. All of those right now are all in our grasp. And they believe."

Junior forward Mallory Wishard is once again leading the way, averaging 16.7 points and 7.6 rebounds.

"Mallory used to have a little problem with girls a little bigger than her. She kind of took a back seat," Stuart said. "This year, we expressed to her that she has to be able to match up with a better player. She has to use a little more finesse, use a ball fake, a jab step, and get the advantage. She's learning to do that. She's stepped up to be a leader, and her work ethic - she probably practices harder than anyone."

Senior center Gillian Hollen (5.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks) and juniors Jenna Lininger (6.7 points, 5.4 assists, 4.9 steals), Kelsey Wagaman (7.2 points, 3.3 assists, 2.3 steals) and Chelsey Kistler (7.9 points, 2.5 steals) are all contributing.

"It's been fun, and no matter what happens, to start off 11-1, you would hope that could happen," Stuart said. "We had an incredible win against Susquenita - Hollen scored with one second left (to force overtime), and even in the timeout, the confidence was there, it was like, 'This might work!' And everything went perfect and she hit a 15-footer as the buzzer goes off to tie it and we win in overtime. It's been one of those years."

Devils start fast

With one game left in the regular season last year, the Greencastle-Antrim boys were 12-10, mostly because of injuries and suspensions. Then the Blue Devils came together and ripped through the playoffs, reaching the PIAA Class AAA state title game before losing a heartbreaker to General McLane in the final seconds.

This year, there's been no such early-season struggle for No. 2 Greencastle, which is 14-1 overall and 6-0 in the Mid-Penn Capital, leading Scotland by a game.

"Obviously, when you're winning, it's a lot of fun," Blue Devils coach Garon Gembe said. "I like how we're playing right now. In December, we weren't playing great ball, but we were finding ways to win. Our last couple games, we're starting to roll into form and are doing the things we need to do to ultimately be successful."

Dameatric Scott is having a huge year. He led the Blue Devils in scoring (20.5), rebounding (8.2), assists (3.3) and steals (2.8) through the first 11 games.

"He's just an extremely talented kid," Gembe said. "He's athletic, he has basketball skill and good instincts. His ability to get in the passing lanes and create steals, and the fact he leads our team in assists and well as scoring and rebounding, says a lot."

With Jaren Gembe having graduated last spring, brother Jordan has stepped into the point guard spot and was averaging 14.9 points.

"Jaren was our leader. He was the glue that kept our team together last year," Garon Gembe said. "I think Jordan has stepped into that role and is very much a leader. I think the kids look to him in big situations to come through. He takes care of the ball and has the ability to be a great defender, and he can score when he has to. He's a very good compliment for Dameatric. Dameatric is our high-strung, emotional leader and Jordan is calm, and the two make a pretty good pair."

Greencastle is getting steady contributions from Jordan Statler (5.6 points, 4.5 rebounds) and Levi Holman (5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds) inside, while Evon Wiestling and Mac Frederick have been relied upon to pressure opposing guards.

With expectations high. Gembe is trying to keep the approach the same.

"I think one of the things that kept us successful last year is we didn't look too far ahead," he said. "The truth of the matter is we were in uncharted waters. Greencastle had never won a state playoff game. Two years ago was the first time I think we played in a state tournament game. We were pretty satisfied with where we were at, and each game was a little more icing on the cake. This year, I think we need to take the same approach and take it one game at a time."

News and notes

The Faith Christian boys will face New Life Christian School at the Verizon Center in Washington on Feb. 1. The game will be played before the Washington Wizards face the Utah Jazz.

Kimberly Passarelli, the only Washington County resident playing for the Frederick Warriors - a team comprised of home-school students - is averaging 24.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 7.8 steals, 7.5 assists and 2.9 blocks.

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