Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Lions grind out tough win over Knights

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bill ryan⁄the gazette
Century’s Marisa Ethridge lets go of an outlet pass to start a fast break during Tuesday’s game against Walkersville. The Knights suffered their fourth loss of the season.
Josie Hildebrand just did what had to be done in the last minutes of the Walkersville High girls basketball team’s 42-29 win over host Century on Tuesday.

Scoring six of her 15 points in the last 2 minutes and 23 seconds of the game, Hildebrand locked up the victory for the Lions (11-5).

‘‘Lately, since we went on a streak where we weren’t doing so well, I’ve personally felt that I need to go out there and do something to help the team,” Hildebrand said.

She had 12 rebounds to go with her points in a game marked by defense.

It was the second-lowest scoring output for the Knights (12-4), and the third-lowest offering from Walkersville. The Lions’ Krysten Grossnickle came in with a 9.9 points per game average, but scored only two points.

Century’s Katie Schwarzmann finished with 10 points, scoring five in the fourth quarter. But Stefanie McLallen was hampered by foul trouble and was limited to only six points.

‘‘Both teams came in slow-starting. It just never got up to regular pace,” Hildebrand said.

Walkersville head coach Mike Mathis cited the defenses of both teams as the main culprit for a lack of scoring.

‘‘Both teams played real good defense,” Mathis said. ‘‘We knew we had to focus on shutting Schwarzmann down, and McLallen. And they were focused on stopping our offense. It was a good basketball game, it was a battle all night long.”

It was a game that had some intensity black-outs, which was unexpected when taking on two of the top-five winning teams in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League.

‘‘It was there in spurts,” Mathis said. ‘‘That has to do with the low score, there weren’t a lot of buckets. It was physically draining working hard on the defensive end to not get rewarded on the offensive end.”

Walkersville opened the season with a six-game win streak and was 7-1 in December. But the new year brought a three-game losing streak, including losses to Urbana and Frederick. The Lions didn’t get back to winning until they beat Urbana on the road 42-38 and Thomas Johnson at home 64-53. Mathis pointed to Hildebrand as the catalyst.

‘‘She’s really starting to come to our own this year and late in the game, Mathis said. ‘‘It’s good to have that kind of leadership in the huddle.”

A key for the Lions’ success is that they’re not competing against last year’s Walkersville team, which powered along to a Class 2A West Region title with an undefeated record before losing in the state semifinal.

‘‘This year, we’re a totally different team,” Hildebrand said. ‘‘We’re not trying to come back and prove anything from last year.”

Hildebrand herself had some major changes to her offseason, switching to the Baltimore Cougars AAU team. During the summer, she was able to play against her Walkersville teammates. She said that they had a little bit of trash talking on the court.

‘‘They joke around, but it’s all fun and games,” Hildebrand said.

Tuesday’s game was another sort of battle of former teammates for Hildebrand. She counts Century’s Nicole Ruane as one of her best friends, and was also on an eighth grade AAU team with McLallen and Marisa Etheridge.