Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

PGCC men a focused bunch

Women’s team seeking a strong run down the stretch

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Brenda Ahearn⁄The Gazette
PGCC sophomore point guard Eric Vann (10), who averages 20 points per game, works out with teammates at an Owls’ practice Monday in Largo.
As the players filtered into the Novak Field House gymnasium Monday afternoon, it was easy to tell that this season’s Prince George’s Community College men’s basketball team has a businesslike attitude.

Before Owls’ coach John Wiley even set foot in the gym, players were getting started with wrapping their ankles, talking basketball and waiting while the PGCC women’s team concluded practice.

The PGCC men are having their best season in three years, carrying a 15-6 record entering this week. Sitting at 9-4 and in fourth place in the Maryland State JUCO League, the Owls feel they have a good chance to win the state championship and advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XX playoffs.

Consistency has been a catch phrase with this season’s team. And Wiley knew just the way to test the team.

‘‘The basic way to challenge them was that I expected for all of them to become the complete basketball player,” Wiley said. ‘‘What we do in practice, I wanted for them to do that in the game. Some guys practice well but don’t perform when they are in the game. They know we like to run the floor, push the ball up court and emphasize defense.”

The Owls have responded well and it has been the involvement of all of the players that has kept the team competitive. Wiley said the team’s depth has been the most significant factor in the team’s season, as the Owls lost a number of players to injury and academic troubles.

Among team’s best players has been Eric Vann, a sophomore out of Gwynn Park High. Vann has averaged about 20 points per game this season after transferring from Harford Community College. Also playing key roles are sophomore guard Robert Spencer (Gwynn Park) and freshman forward Kevin Baker (Bowie).

‘‘On the court [Wiley], challenged us by putting us in certain situations,” said Vann, who has been offered a scholarship by Virginia State University and also has interest from James Madison. ‘‘I think another reason why we have started so well is because we work hard in practice. We never have easy practices. We always work hard. When things are going good, coach tells us to stay within the offense.”

One of the biggest problems for the Owls this season is actually something minor. They have struggled with rebounding at times and Vann said that is due to having so many athletic players. The team tries to outjump opponents for rebounds instead of boxing out.

The Owls will finish with three consecutive contests on the road against Howard CC (Feb. 6), Harford CC (Feb. 9) and Montgomery College Takoma Park-Silver Spring (Feb. 13).

The play-in games for the Maryland Juco tournament begin Feb. 19 and Wiley is hoping the team can secure a home contest for the first game.

PGCC womenseek ‘killer instinct’

There were no smiles during a heated PGCC women’s basketball practice Monday evening. Owls’ coach Barvenia Wooten-Collier said the easy part of the season has ended. And if the 12-9 Owls want the hard part to go any better, the team must push itself hard.

‘‘What I told them was that I want them to play their best during this final stretch,” Wooten-Collier said. ‘‘I want them to feel good about playing to 110 percent of their capabilities because I’m going to give 120 percent of myself to them and whatever the outcome is, at least we will know that we gave it our all.”

The Owls have been led by a number of county graduates including sophomore guard Tamica Jeffries (Potomac). Douglass High grads and sophomores Tiffany Calloway (eight points, four rebounds and two steals) and Tiffany Reid (18 points, 8.5 rebounds per game) have also been solid at guard for the Owls this season.

Wooten-Collier said she desires better play in the post from her team, as the Owls are constantly getting out-rebounded and lack what she calls ‘‘killer instinct” to be able to finish off opponents once the Owls have the lead.

‘‘I think in the beginning we were just trying to come together and develop team chemistry,” said Jeffries, who averages a team-high 20 points per game to go along with six rebounds and 3.9 steals. ‘‘I think we’re capable of winning the state tournament but in order to do that, everyone has bring their hustle and all of the energy they have.”

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.