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Notebook: Hubs, Leopards ready for Antietam showdown

February 03, 2011

Girls Basketball

The biggest regular-season game in Washington County this season will take place tonight at North Hagerstown when the Hubs host Smithsburg with first place in the MVAL Antietam on the line.

The Leopards (14-1, 9-1) enter tonight’s contest on an eight-game winning streak that includes a 60-48 victory over the Hubs (9-4, 9-1) on Jan. 6 and Wednesday’s 51-39 victory over Catoctin (13-4, 9-2), which handed Smithsburg its only loss on Jan. 4.

Katie Sprecher leads the Leopards at 16.1 points per game, and she’s 15 points away from 1,000 for her prep career. Sprecher led Smithsburg with 19 points against North in the teams’ first meeting.

“It’s another big game,” Sprecher said. “We just want to come out, hustle, play as a team and see what happens.”

Sara Rishell — who is averaging 10.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game — had 12 points and 13 rebounds in the first game against the Hubs. Apryl Lee had her best game of the season against North, scoring 14 points.

Smithsburg had a big advantage at the foul line in the first game against the Hubs, making 25 of 32 from the stripe to just 2 of 5 for North.

Taylor Belella, who is averaging 8.0 points per game for the Leopards this season, has averaged 10.6 points in the last five games.

Smithsburg shares the ball well, averaging almost 13 assists per game. The Leopards average 55.1 points per game while the defense has held opponents to 34.9 points per game.

“We just need to be efficient offensively and focus on defense,” Smithsburg coach Katy Barnhart said. “(North is) very athletic, so we have to be defensive-minded.”

North has won four straight games since a 63-48 loss to Urbana on Jan. 19. Autumn Fisher (12 points), Quielanna Gantt (11) and Iman Scott (11) reached double figures for the Hubs in the first game against Smithsburg.

“They’re pretty fired up for the game. We’re pretty ready to go,” Hubs coach Cyndi Benjamin said. “They’ve practiced real well the last couple of days.”

Scott leads North at 11.8 points per game, with Gantt second at 8.6 points per game. Scott is the Hubs’ most dangerous outside shooter.

“It always helps when we make our shots outside to open things up inside,” Benjamin said. “Our drives to the basket will hopefully get them in foul trouble. ... We need to drive to the basket more, be a little more aggressive and try to get the fouls.”

“Iman is an excellent player and we’ve got to make sure we know where she is,” Barnhart said.

The Hubs average 52.8 points per game while allowing opponents 40.9 points per game.

“On defense, we need to be intense,” Benjamin said. “Since the last time we played Smithsburg, we’ve improved on defense a lot. If we play team defense like we’ve been playing, we should be pretty set.”

Statistical oddity

Smithsburg’s Taylor Belella has attempted 110 2-point field goals and 31 3-pointers this season — and has been to the foul line fewer times than teammates Krystal Holl (eight FG attempts, six FT attempts), Elyse Koterwas (seven FG attempts, two FT attempts) and Sam Gladhill (three FG attempts, two FT attempts). In fact, Belella has not attempted a single free throw this season.



Boys Basketball

It’s a puzzling question why the schedule-makers made us wait two months into the season before we get the first of two North Hagerstown-South Hagerstown matchups.

The first of this year’s two contests is on Tuesday when North heads over to South. The return engagement will be on Feb. 24 to finish the regular season.

Except for school bragging rights, the second game means nothing as far as playoff seedings, since it is being played after the draws are announced by the MPSSAA on Feb. 20.

One year ago, snow wiped out the first game and the schools ended up playing an unusual back-to-back two-game series, neither of which had a bearing on the playoff seedings.

South came away with an impressive 61-49 victory at North, leaving one to think the Rebels could do the same the following night. However, North turned things around quickly, posting a 42-37 victory.

It was the fourth consecutive year North and South split the season series. The Rebels swept the series in the 2003-04 season, while the Hubs swept the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

* North Hagerstown has lost one game on its schedule thanks to a scheduling snafu by Urbana.

The Hubs believed they were scheduled to host Urbana on Feb. 15. North coach Kevin Hartman found out otherwise.

Hartman was checking the Urbana schedule to prepare for a scouting trip, and saw the Hawks had double-booked the date, also having a road game at Great Mills scheduled.

North school officials were told by Urbana the school would play Great Mills.

The Hubs and Hawks are both part of the Monocacy Valley Athletic League, with Urbana competing in the Piedmont. Great Mills is not part of the MVAL. Apparently, that didn’t matter in Urbana’s decision.

Hartman said North was told by MPSSAA officials they could not add a game since the bylaws do not allow for it once the season has begun.

* The following games that were recently postponed will be made up on these dates: Clear Spring at Brunswick on Monday; North Hagerstown at Brunswick on Wednesday; and Williamsport at South Hagerstown on Feb. 14.



Wrestling

After being sidelined for a month with a knee injury, Williamsport senior standout Matt Cody is back — leaner, lighter and hungrier.

“Even not wrestling that whole month, I lost seven pounds,” Cody said.

In the final regular-season match of his high school career — Wednesday at home against Smithsburg — Cody, a four-year varsity starter, did something for the very first time.

After wrestling all 108 of his previous career bouts in the 285-pound weight class, Cody made his debut at 215 — which he just made on the nose at weigh-ins.

The result, however, was nothing new as Cody won by fall in the first period, helping the Wildcats beat the Leopards 68-12.

Weighing 230 pounds last season, Cody went 30-6 with a team-high 25 pins and won his second straight Washington County tournament title at 285.

Now comes the big question: Where will he wrestle in the postseason, which begins with the county tourney Feb. 19 at Smithsburg? Whatever weight class he chooses there will be the weight class he must remain at the rest of the year.

“I haven’t decided yet,” Cody said. “I’m going to look at how it all falls out for regions and states.”

Because Cody’s injury has limited him to just 10 bouts this season (he’s 7-3), he likely will have to place either first or second at the county tourney in order to advance to regions.

At least in the county, 285 is a significantly tougher weight class than 215.

At 285, South Hagerstown’s Aaron Rowland, the county runner-up to Cody last year, has won titles at the Leopard Holiday Invitational, the Hub Cup and the Rebel Invitational this season. And then there’s Boonsboro’s Josh Harwood, who beat Cody by decision and Rowland by pin in an early-season tri-meet.



Indoor Track

While we’re still a few weeks away from the big show — the Maryland state meet Feb. 21-22 in Landover — county athletes will begin punching their tickets this weekend.

The Class 1A West region championships — involving Boonsboro, Clear Spring, Hancock, Smithsburg and Williamsport — will be held Saturday at Hagerstown Community College.

The 3A West meet (South Hagerstown) is Wednesday at the Baltimore Armory, and the 2A West meet (North Hagerstown) is Feb. 12 at HCC.

The top four athletes in each event automatically qualify for states.

— Assistant sports editor Andrew Mason and staff writers Dan Kauffman and Tim Koelble contributed to this notebook.

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