Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Lions continue hot play, eye PVAC banner

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Before the season, players on the Queen Anne School boys’ basketball team boasted they would win all seven of their games in December.

That mentality earned the Lions just three wins.

After the mediocre start, they toned down their overconfidence and refocused on playing team basketball. The change has gotten them far. Queen Anne is playing its best basketball in a decade after winning nine in a row and has hopes of winning its first Potomac Valley Athletic Conference banner in 13 years.

The Lions (12-4, 9-3) have had some close calls in their streak recently. Two of their last three wins, against Washington International and Covenant Life last week, were by three points combined. But Queen Anne soundly put away South Division rival Washington International, 61-45, in the rematch, Tuesday.

Queen Anne led from early in the second quarter onward, but Washington International’s Jan Stefanski kept the game close by completing a three-point play with two seconds left in the third period, whittling the difference to 37-33. But he Lions blew that score open with a 21-5 run that lasted from the start of the final period until both teams unloaded their benches with two minutes left.

It’s a change from earlier this season, when the Lions got ahead of themselves during games and in their assumptions about the season.

‘‘We thought we were going to go 7-0 and we got cocky, and then we wouldn’t come out strong in the first quarters,” said Connor Bond, a senior co-captain along with Michael Pierce.

Senior forward Chandler Davenport led the Lions with 20 points and 13 rebounds against Washington International. Sophomore Larry Haley scored 11 and junior Edmond Wright II had 10 along with five of Queen Anne’s 14 steals.

Like his team, Davenport has had his own transformation this season. He is the team’s top scorer and rebounder and showed that he is one of the Lions’ most creative players against the Red Devils with his acrobatic plays to the rim.

But that leadership only is a recent development for the Mitchellville resident. He came to Queen Anne as a freshman from a military school and didn’t play basketball that year because of grades.

His academic struggles hindered him on the junior varsity squad the next year, and he got little varsity playing time last year because he had trouble with fundamentals and the playbook, said coach Dave Montgomery.

Davenport said he worked with his parents and teachers at Queen Anne, including Montgomery, who teaches English at the school, and had an epiphany to get on the right track.

‘‘The main thing was my grades, but I also was in and out of trouble with my parents,” Davenport said. ‘‘I got serious and sat down and [said], ‘This is it. This is my last year.’ I had to buckle down and do what I had to do.”

The attitude that hurt his grades also hurt his progress on the court, his coach said.

‘‘It’s taken him a few years to really get that him being unfocused in other parts of life and him being unfocused in basketball are kind of the same thing,” Montgomery said.

Even when he struggled to crack the lineup at the small school, Davenport would talk about playing in college, Montgomery said. It still will be a difficult path for him to fulfill his goal of playing for his top college choice, the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, but Montgomery said Davenport finally can get serious about those kinds of hopes.

‘‘I always wish that I could go back and change everything, to pull up my grades,” Davenport said. ‘‘But the past is the past and I’m looking at now.”

E-mail Kevin Hilgers at khilgers@gazette.net.