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Tough five-day stretch greets Wildcats

February 01, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Williamsport boys basketball coach Scott Mowbray is about to lead the No. 4 Wildcats through one of the toughest stretches on any team's schedule this season.

Williamsport (11-2, 5-0 MVAL Antietam) plays four games in the next five days. Tonight, the Wildcats will travel to Brunswick (8-6, 4-1).

On Saturday, No. 5 Musselman (11-3) comes calling, and on Monday, Williamsport heads to Cumberland, Md., for another shot at undefeated Fort Hill (14-0).

If all that isn't enough, on Tuesday, Williamsport travels to Boonsboro (4-11, 2-3) -- and the Warriors will be more than happy to try to pin an upset on the weary Wildcats.

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"It's going to be fun," Mowbray said. "We're going to go into some hostile environments, some fun atmospheres, and that's what basketball is all about.

"I know it's a cliché, but we're just taking it one game at a time."

With a win tonight against the Railroaders, Williamsport would open up a three-game lead in the loss column in the Antietam and all but wrap up the conference title.

"It's not only a league game, but it's also a region game, so a win would be very big both for the league standings and the region draw," Mowbray said.

Musselman is enjoying its best season in many years, led by the trio of Josh Walters (12.7 points per game), Diego Pons (11.4 points, 2.5 steals) and J.D. Daniels (10.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks).

"On Saturday, we'll be facing a very good and much-improved Musselman team," Mowbray said. "Hopefully, we don't expend too much energy Friday night."

Then, the main event. The Wildcats will be licking their chops for Monday's battle with the Sentinels, who have been a thorn in Williamsport's side. Fort Hill defeated the Wildcats 69-62 in last year's Class 1A West final, and Jordan Brooks' turnaround, fadeaway 3-pointer in the final seconds gave the Sentinels a 55-52 victory in Williamsport on Jan. 21.

"I don't think I need to say anything about Monday's contest," Mowbray said. "If we don't show up with lots of energy and passion, we're going to walk into a buzzsaw."

Greg Minnick leads Williamsport with 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Sean Dixon, who averages 12.8 points, scored 16 in the first game against Fort Hill and had a season-high 29 when the Wildcats handed Allegany its second loss of the season on Jan. 25.

"He's just kind of been cruising along, and all of a sudden, he's playing with a lot more confidence and being stronger," Mowbray said. "When we get Sean and Greg playing together, along with our guard play, we're getting better every time out."

This tough stretch should be just what the Wildcats need to prepare for the playoffs, which begin Feb. 29.

"As we draw near the end of the season, it will definitely tell us where we stand as a basketball team," Mowbray said. "Even if we go 2-2 or 1-3, we're playing games with a playoff atmosphere. If we go 1-3, it's not the end of the world, it's just a good measuring tool for where we are."

Mid-Penn playoffs arrive

The No. 2 Greencastle-Antrim boys and No. 5 Waynesboro girls -- both Mid-Penn Capital Division champions -- will play Mid-Penn Tournament first-round games Monday.

The Blue Devils (20-2), ranked fifth in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News Class AAA state rankings, will face either Central Dauphin East (19-2) or Steel-High (15-5) at home Monday. Steel-High is ranked eighth in AAA.

"We don't know either team real well. I don't know if we've ever played them," Greencastle coach Garon Gembe said. "I've seen them play, I think they both present some matchup problems for us with their size, but if we're at our best, we can compete. They'll be very good challenges for us going into districts."

No. 6 Chambersburg used its size advantage with Armond Perez and Devonté Merritt to hand the Blue Devils a 55-45 setback at last Saturday's "Dunks for Drew" event -- a loss Gembe hopes his team learns from.

"We're not real big, and there's nothing we can do about that," Gembe said. "We just have to battle a little harder than we did. Mentally, we got a little down against Chambersburg, and that's a good lesson for us. In the postseason, when we can't afford to lose, we have to battle."

Greencastle rebounded with a 61-37 victory over Milton Hershey (17-4) on the road Tuesday.

"I think Milton Hershey was a good test, and Boiling Springs will be a good test (Friday) for us," Gembe said. "You want to be at your best at the end of the year, and these teams are forcing us to try to be at our best. I've always believed the regular season should be used to prepare for the postseason, and these games are doing it."

Waynesboro's girls (17-5) will host either Trinity (18-3) or Harrisburg (13-8) on Monday. The Maidens started the season 14-1 before losing four of their last seven -- though they finished undefeated in the Capital at 10-0.

Roundball Classic

The third annual McDonald's Roundball Classic, to be held March 21 at Hagerstown Community College, has expanded significantly.

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