Friday, Jan. 9, 2009

Churchill girls: There is life after Dempsey

Bulldogs answer questions with 6-3 start

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The Churchill girls basketball team had some questions to answer early in 2007-08: namely, could it recover from losing its leading scorer of the last three years. It seems the answer is yes.

The Bulldogs improved their record to 6-3, 1-1 in the Montgomery 4A West Division, with a convincing 63-38 win over Walter Johnson at home Friday.

In preseason and early in the regular season, Churchill felt the void left by Carole Dempsey, who averaged 16 points per game last year and is now playing at Dickinson (Pa.) College. But the Bulldogs have moved on.

With each win, they have gained confidence in their abilities. They don’t have a constant to lean on, but they’ve got several players who have stepped into more prominent roles when needed. And it’s provided for a versatile attack.

‘‘I like it better now that we’re more balanced,” second-year Churchill coach Aubree Lawrence said. ‘‘It allows us to go to any person at any time. We’ve got options. Because we don’t have a primary scorer, and we know we have to score, we try our best to play within ourselves.”

Churchill has had a different leading scorer in almost every game. Six-foot junior forward Marlena Phillips, who led the team with 16 points, and freshman guard Ashley Nelson (12 points) had the hot hands Friday.

The Bulldogs jumped to an early 25-11 lead in the first quarter and just kept building on it. Senior guard Chelsea Pizano and junior guard Angela Biciocchi teamed to hold Walter Johnson senior guard Alex Chili, who averaged 19.1 points per game in 2006-07, to just four Friday.

It’s early in the season and there are still some things Churchill needs to work on — free throws, finishing the easy buckets. But the Bulldogs have recovered well from what could have been a dicey situation, without its three-year leading scorer.

‘‘We knew we were going to have to score because we didn’t have Carole to rely on for 16 points a game,” Lawrence said. ‘‘It’s not going to be the same person every night. And I think that makes us difficult to defend against.”