Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Laurel aims for strong finish

Spartans try to put pieces together with playoffs on horizon

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Brenda Ahearn⁄The Gazette
Records serve as an indicator of how good a team is, but not always the potential the team possesses.

The Laurel High School girls’ basketball team would like to think that its 5-8 record entering this week is misleading. Spartans’ coach Tommy Harrison knows his team is capable of better.

‘‘The season hasn’t gone like I wanted it to,” Harrison said. ‘‘I wanted to do more than we have done so far. It’s still possible that we can finish the season with a winning record.”

Typical team growing pains have afflicted the Spartans this season, as the team has a deficit of experience on the varsity level.

The team’s lone seniors — guard⁄forward Angel Saunders and forward Tiffany Redfield — are Laurel’s only source of leadership while the players are on the court.

The Spartans’ youth was on display Friday at Bladensburg. Leading late, the game became a tactical contest in which the Spartans could not convert on five easy layups and missed 14 shots in the fourth quarter. The result was a one-point loss that could easily have been a victory. Half of the team’s losses entering this week were by four points or less.

Saunders, perhaps the team’s best all-around player, understands the challenges.

‘‘We just need more effort all together,” said Saunders who is averaging nine points, nine steals and nearly eight rebounds per outing. ‘‘Our basketball IQ needs to be higher. That means we have to work on our defense and know where we’re at on the floor and being smart and knowing what to do at the right time. We’re right there if we can get those small things together.”

Earlier in the season, the Spartans revealed they had come a long way when they captured the Lady Millers Christmas Tournament at Milford Mill High.

Harrison said that what he saw at the tournament in terms of unity and effort has carried on throughout the season. Harrison lauded the team’s ability to stay together even when the circumstances become tough.

‘‘I feel we have gotten better since the beginning of the season because we’re learning to work together as a team,” Redfield said. ‘‘Sometimes we would get down on ourselves and didn’t focus on the game.”

The Spartans have been affected by several injuries to key players including freshman point guard Shakiesha Cade, who had missed the last five games entering this week because of a sprained ankle. Junior guard Tiffany Fails has been hindered all season by asthma.

Despite those difficulties, the Spartans have a number of role players that have stepped up this season. Sophomore guard Ifiya Ranger joined the team this year after her family moved from California. Ranger has had an instant impact as she averages a team-high 12 points per game to go along with six rebounds per outing.

Harrison described freshman guard⁄forward Asia Giles as the team’s ‘‘Dennis Rodman.” He said Giles makes a lot of hustle plays like diving for loose balls, running the floor and helping with rebounds. Giles has converted that energy into averaging six rebounds and three steals per game. Sophomore post player Marche’ Pearson also has come through when the team has needed her.

Harrison hopes that the team can turn it on as the postseason draws closer, but knows that the foundation for a good season is already present.

‘‘We’re definitely going to have to turn it around,” Harrison said. ‘‘They learned the first time through [playing against County 4A teams], now we’re at the second time. We now should be able to finish. We’re getting there. I think it’s going to take another season. We can be very good this season and upset someone in the playoffs, or we could get blown out.”

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