The St. Mary's Ryken boys basketball program took another step toward becoming a contender in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference last week, as its summer league team defeated Great Mills, 39-31, in the High School Basketball Summer League final in St. Mary's County.

Ryken's program has made several moves with an eye on improvement in the past year. First was the hiring of new coach J.P. Jones, who led the Knights to an 11-12 regular season record, the second-best record in school history. The season included a school-record eight SMAC victories and a championship in the postseason St. Anselm's Invitation Tournament.

"We are already looking forward to next year," said Michael Maloney, Ryken's assistant varsity coach. "A lot of these guys have been playing together since the sixth and seventh grade, and it's so nice to see it all coming together for them now."

The Knights are led by Maloney's son, Chad, a rising senior who averaged 22 points over the final 10 games of the high school season. Ryken had no seniors last year, so they should return the whole team in 1999-2000, including starters Maloney, Wade Lewis, Joe Saunders, Patrick Warring and Dabren Wills. All five of the projected starters played for the summer league team -- the Defenders -- this season.

"We started to realize last year that we could be one of the top teams in the SMAC," Chad Maloney said. "To return everyone from the starting lineup is such a good feeling. We hadn't played together since the end of last season, but by the end of this summer league, we were starting to gel again."

The High School Basketball Fall League, which begins in September and encompasses teams from all 12 area high schools, will provide area players with one last warm-up before the start of the high school season.

Little League

Hughesville Defends Title

Hughesville Little League's 11- and 12-year-old all-star baseball team successfully defended its Maryland District 7 championship and advanced to the Maryland state championship, which began Friday.

Hughesville won the district championship by defeating Waldorf, 9-8, at the SMYO complex in Pomfret, Md. Pitchers Justin Armiger and Shawn Bowling combined for the win. Josh Mathews made a fine defensive play to prevent a tying run by Waldorf.