Around the SMAC

La Plata boys coach Mike Meiser isn't expecting miracles from his team this season, but he is happy to see a change. When Meiser took over the program last season, La Plata had won three games in the previous two years. Last season, Meiser's efforts helped bump that number to five wins. This year, with help from the likes of senior Steve Houser, Meiser is hoping to pull La Plata (2-3) to .500--or a little better.

"I think it was [Lackey Coach John] Mappas who told me last year that going from one win to being .500 in the first year was too much to even wish for," Meiser said. "Now it's the same thing this year. Going from five wins to 18 or so seems unlikely, though not impossible. But going .500 is definitely within our reach."

The 6-foot-2 Houser was cut as a freshman and sophomore, then didn't try out last season. This season Houser is logging crucial minutes as the team's sixth man, averaging six points per game.

"It's not so much that his numbers are huge, it's that he's hitting key baskets and getting key rebounds," Meiser said. "He seems to always be in the right place at the right time."

Lineup Change Showcases Ashton

McDonough junior center Lori Ashton scored nine total points in the Rams' first three games, and all three were losses. Coach Brian Grainger believed the two facts were linked, so he juggled the lineup in the backcourt in an effort to get Ashton the ball more often.

The result: back-to-back wins over St. Mary's Ryken and La Plata. Against Ryken, Ashton scored a season-high 23 points. Against La Plata on Monday, she had 10 points, 18 rebounds and 7 blocked shots.

"She has fantastic athletic ability; she can jump out of the gym; and she's improved her game tremendously over the last few years," Grainger said. "Against Ryken, she just exploded. She is the total package."

Northern Stars Rise Above Average

Last year, none of Northern's boys team players averaged 10 or more points per game. Though this season is only five games old, that looks as though it's about to change.

Senior guards Chad Hall and Albert Rice are averaging 15.2 and 11.8 points per game, respectively. Hall does much of his damage from the outside. Rice is just the opposite, a slashing player who likes to attack the basket.

"Albert played a little more than Chad last year, but the truth is neither of them saw much time," Northern Coach Rick Weber said. "Now that they have an opportunity to play, they're taking full advantage of it."

-- Angie Watts and Greg Brice

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Boys

Patuxent vs. Southern

in Holiday Tournament

at Northern

6 p.m. Dec. 29

Patuxent's only loss this season was at Southern on Dec. 14. The Panthers fell, 70-62, and are eagerly anticipating another shot at the Bulldogs. Patuxent senior Eric Gross scored a season-high 23 points at Southern, but versatile guard Chris Graham was held to two points--his only game with fewer than 10 this season.

Girls

Leonardtown vs. Great Mills

in Four-Star Pizza/Coca-Cola Classic

at Leonardtown

6 p.m. Dec. 28

The St. Mary's County rivals already have played this season, a 39-31 victory for Great Mills on Dec. 11. Raiders senior forward Brandy Behrens was held scoreless in that game, but that isn't likely to happen again. She has scored 10 and 18 points, respectively, in her last two outings. The Hornets will count on senior guard LaToya Hopkins, who had a game-high 14 points against the Raiders.

RESULTS

Boys

Friday, Dec. 17

Calvert 52, Leonardtown 44

Great Mills 64, Chopticon 51

Patuxent 67, La Plata 64 (OT)

Thomas Stone 75, Westlake 73

Saturday, Dec. 18

Pallotti 58, Chopticon 56

Monday, Dec. 20

La Plata 49, McDonough 43

Westlake 58, Lackey 48

Girls

Friday, Dec. 17

Calvert 45, Leonardtown 43

Chopticon 37, Great Mills 35

La Plata 63, Patuxent 33

McDonough 57, St. Mary's Ryken 49

Northern 60, Lackey 23

Thomas Stone 62, Westlake 42

Saturday, Dec. 18

Newport School 72, Patuxent 22

Monday, Dec. 20

McDonough 49, La Plata 42

Westlake 60, Lackey 49

HOLIDAY TOURNAMENTS:

WHO PLAYS WHERE

BOYS

* Calvert, Lackey, Thomas Stone and Westlake: At six-team Calvert Holiday tournament, Calvert H.S., Tuesday and Wednesday.

* Chopticon, Great Mills and Leonardtown: At four-team Four-Star Pizza/Coca-Cola Classic, Leonardtown H.S., Tuesday and Wednesday.

* La Plata: At four-team Aberdeen Holiday Invitational, Aberdeen H.S., Monday and Tuesday.

* Northern and Patuxent: At four-team Northern Holiday tournament, Northern H.S., Wednesday and Thursday.

GIRLS

* Chopticon, Great Mills and Leonardtown: At four-team Four-Star Pizza/Coca-Cola Classic, Leonardtown H.S., Tuesday and Wednesday.

* La Plata: At eight-team Holiday Hoops Invitational, Anne Arundel C.C., Monday through Wednesday.

* Lackey, McDonough and Thomas Stone: At four-team McDonough Rams Invitational, McDonough H.S., Tuesday and Wednesday.

* St. Mary's Ryken: At eight-team Noel Holiday Classic, Spalding H.S., Monday through Wednesday.

SCORING LEADERS

* Boys

Player

School

Gms.

Pts.

Avg.

Alan Hoyt

Great Mills

4

85

21.3

Ryan Hawkins

Patuxent

4

69

17.3

Randy Starks

Westlake

5

85

17.0

Jermaine Saunders

Great Mills

4

68

17.0

Chad Hall

Northern

5

76

15.2

* Girls

Player

School

Gms.

Pts.

Avg.

Jewel Clark

Thomas Stone

5

116

23.2

Necka Lancaster

La Plata

3

59

19.7

Meredith Bell

Westlake

4

49

12.3

Cheyann Gilroy

Lackey

4

49

12.3

Ashley Howell

Patuxent

3

35

11.7

THIS WEEK'S TOP PERFORMERS

* Boys

Pos.

Name

School

Yr.

Gms.

Pts.

Highlights

G

Jermaine Saunders

Great Mills

Jr.

2

44

Led Hornets with 22 points in two straight games, wins over Baltimore City and Chopticon.

F-C

Harshod Spells

Thomas Stone

Sr.

1

22

Scored a team-high 22 points Friday in 75-73 win over Westlake, the Cougars' SMAC opener.

F

Randy Starks

Westlake

Jr.

3

56

Had season-high 26 points in loss to Thomas Stone on Friday; had 16 points and 13 rebounds in a 58-48 win over Lackey on Monday.

* Girls

Pos.

Name

School

Yr.

Gms.

Pts.

Highlights

F

Jewel Clark

Thomas Stone

Sr.

2

55

Has scored 28 points twice this season--including Friday against Westlake--and 27 once.

F

Brandy Behrens

Leonardtown

Sr.

2

28

Had nine total points in first two games of season; came back with 10 and 18 in past two games.

F

Brianne Gray

Northern

Jr.

2

24

Has set a new season high with each game this season, going from 4 points in opener to 7, 10 and 14 Friday vs. Lackey.

CAPTION: La Plata guard Johnte Brawner drives through the McDonough defense in the Warriors' 49-43 victory Monday. The team is looking to break from its losing ways by surpassing the .500 mark this year.