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HCC women play the numbers game

October 24, 2009|By BOB PARASILITI

The new basketball season is a numbers game for Hagerstown Community College women's coach Marlys Palmer.

Up front, she is starting her 31st season of leading the Hawks with a 548-328 career record. That's a .626 winning percentage.

But the numbers the most on her mind right now are seven, eight, nine and 10.

The Hawks, who open their season Nov. 2, presently have seven players practicing. That number could go up in the next week or so when redshirt freshman LaQuita Jones returns after recovering from an ankle sprain. Williamsport's Brittany Mallott will be player No. 9, coming over after the HCC volleyball season ends, and Tiarra Rogers will be the 10th player once some administrative problems are cleared.

"It's a change," Palmer said. "It isn't the first time we have had (so few players on the roster), but we haven't had to do it in a while."

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Graduations and last-minute changes of plans have limited the numbers of the Hawks. More players left the program than came in, causing the practices to become gatherings rather than group functions.

Yet, Palmer vows the Hawks are ready to attack the problems at hand.

"This group has surprised us," Palmer said. "We had a scrimmage and they did very well. We like this group quite a bit. They work hard and they get along. We have had some teams in the past that had talent and were second or third in the conference standings, but didn't mesh well at all."

Meshing will be very important with such a small group and the majority of the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Miranda Payne, a sophomore and graduate of Cumberland Valley Christian School. Payne is the Hawks' point guard and the only returnee from last season.

"Miranda will have to do more than she is accustomed to," Palmer said. "As a point guard, she has a pass mentality, but she is going to have to be a scoring point guard for us. We need her to shoot the ball and score more."

The Hawks will be thrusting 5-foot-11 freshman Mallory Wishard into a featured role, fresh out of Waynesboro (Pa.) High, to balance the offense.

"Mallory and Miranda need to touch the ball every time down the floor," Palmer said. "Miranda scored 2,500 points and Mallory had more than 1,000 in high school, so they know how to score. We don't have a backup for Miranda right now, so she is going to have to be a 40-minute player."

On the inside, the Hawks will look for a mixture of size and experienced post play -- be it from the high school level -- to help out.

Six-foot-3 Tomi Dare and Shawnda Wills (Hancock) could be keys. Dare comes to HCC from Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in Georgia, where she was also a standout shot and discus competitor. She will also compete in track for HCC. Meanwhile, Wills was the leading scorer on the Panthers.

Rounding out HCC's roster are Andrea Baum (Clear Spring), Tiasha Caldwell (Chambersburg) and Lakeya Ambush (Tuscarora), along with the eventual arrivals of Jones, Mallott and Rogers.

Practices have been challenging for the Hawks, who have used assistants and managers to get enough defenders to go through sets.

"The low numbers changes style," Palmer said. "I like to play uptempo. This year, we might have to go a little slower to keep us in games."

Attitude will have to win out over depth to keep HCC near the top of the Maryland JuCo Conference standings.

"This team has good workers and good chemistry," Palmer said. "A lot of times, kids blossom once they get here. They look good in high school but their game opens up here. We hope that we are able to hang with people. Attitude and hard work will win you a couple of games."

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