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HCC women searching for magic from 21-0 start in Region XX

February 29, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

For the first half of the 2007-08 season, the Hagerstown Community College women's basketball team was there, body and soul.

This weekend at the Region XX Tournament, the Hawks will show up in body. The soul is what's in question.

HCC took the state, region and nation by storm by starting the season 21-0. But the Hawks must weather the storm after losing four of their last seven games.

The No. 2-seeded Hawks' Jekyll-and-Hyde act goes on tour to find out which personality will show up when it faces No. 7 Potomac State today at 3 p.m. at Frederick Community College.

"We think the girls should be confident," said HCC coach Marlys Palmer. "Their body of work is done and (it would be) a great accomplishment to keep it going. The problems we have are psychological. We don't get excited.

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"We have all the physical things - size, speed, shooting, we hit foul shots and we have depth - we have it. They know they didn't play the state tournament well and they know they have to play better this week."

The Hawks have to rekindle their early-season magic if they want to earn a berth to the NJCAA national tournament. HCC has turned stagnate since a 74-42 loss on Feb. 3 to the Community College of Rhode Island that snapped its 21-game winning streak.

Before that loss, HCC came out of nowhere to force itself on the national radar - the Hawks climbed all the way to No. 6 in the national poll.

"This team has exceeded all of our beginning expectations," Palmer said. "They came out of the blocks well. We never envisioned a 21-win run or being No. 6 in the nation. We lost to Rhode Island, which position by position was stronger than us."

Since then, HCC has struggled to find its identity. The Hawks, the top seed, defeated Montgomery-Rockville in the quarterfinal round of the Maryland JuCo Tournament, but fell to Garrett in the semifinals.

HCC was held to 14 baskets in the game, 12 scored by Latoya Buckner, who accounted for 29 of the 43 points the Hawks scored as HCC failed once again against Garrett.

The Hawks return to square one to get going again.

"We have been talking to them about energy," Palmer said. "We don't seem to use when good things happen to us to give ourselves a boost. We could win by 40 points or have a 21-game winning streak and nothing. This team is very low key. We don't reach for the brass ring."

HCC defeated Potomac State 73-64 in the season opener. It was a measure of revenge - Potomac knocked the Hawks out of last year's region tournament.

Meanwhile, Garrett and Allegany - two of HCC's biggest adversaries - are in the other half of the eight-team bracket, which means the Hawks won't have to face either one of those teams until the championship game.

If they get there.

For HCC to have a chance, it will have to depend on the horses that brought it there, especially during the 21-game winning streak.

"The five people we need to play well are our five starters - Teonna Jewell, Cara Thompson, Buckner, Shuashanna Faulkner and Alicia Myers - to play well," Palmer said. "They are the starting five because they did things to earn it. Then we need the bench to come in and do the things they have to do - get a rebound, fill a lane, play defense, hit a foul shot. But the five starters have to bring their 'A' game."

HCC lost some of its depth and its most dangerous shooter off the bench when Alex Baker was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

It all comes down to which team shows up. Will it end for the Hawks, or will they start a late winning streak?

"This is tough because this our best chance to win the region since 2001-02," Palmer said. "That was the last time we made it to the championship game. We have a little bit of everything and we have won games by different means all year.

"This is kind of bittersweet because everyone knows we have a good chance. If we can give it our best effort but just get beat by the other team, there's nothing we can do. There is no way I can't be proud of this team."

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