Junior Sydni Epps brings the ball upcourt for the Springside Lions. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher
Launching the 2010-2011 basketball season last weekend, Springside School didn’t just dip a toe in the pool, but plunged right in at the deep end.

Traveling to the Turkey Day Tournament at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Md., the Lions took on two of the top teams in the Washington, D.C. area, bowing to Riverdale Baptist on Friday night, 73-44, and then losing to the tourney host Cavaliers the following afternoon, 63-35.

“We’d only had five days of practice, and those teams had already played a couple of games,” observed fourth-year Springside coach Brian Morris, whose squad also had to adjust to the 30-second shot clock used in girls’ games in Maryland. “It’s clear we have some things to work on; the idea now is for us to regroup and see what we can learn from the experience of facing two outstanding teams.”

Top to bottom, Springside has the most talented roster in the history of the program, but a number of the athletes are new students and the players need to adjust to working with one another.

“I expect that collectively we’ll see a lot of improvement over the next few weeks,” Morris said. “We just need to get everyone on the same page.”

The two seniors on the 2010-2011 Springside roster are actually among the newest members of the team. Point guard Shea Crotty has just arrived at the school from New Zealand, and guard/forward Brenna Coll attended Cardinal Dougherty High School until it permanently closed its doors last spring.

Juniors Michelle Boggs (a 6’1” power forward) and Elana Roadcloud (a 5’11” swing player) are also Dougherty refugees, and there are three returning 11th graders, 5’11” guard/forward Sydni Epps and guards Alexis Giovinazzo and Aly Markey.

Sophomore guards Michelle Cybularz, Maddi Hinchey, and Gianna Pownall all saw varsity playing time last year, and the two freshmen on the roster this season are 6’3” center Erin Garner and point guard Julia Schumacher.

At last weekend’s event in Maryland, the Lions opened their season against Riverdale Baptist, which was ranked seventh in the nation in the ESPN Rise pre-season poll.

Morris called the Crusaders, “Probably the most complete team that I’ve ever coached against.”

Hailing from southeastern Maryland in the vicinity of Andrews Air Force Base, Riverdale soared to a 32-14 halftime lead. The Lions brought their deficit down to 14 points in the middle of the third quarter, then the Crusaders pulled away again.

Coll accumulated 12 points and four assists for Springside, which got eight points apiece from Boggs (11 rebounds), Epps, and Roadcloud. Five points from Crotty (four assists) and three from Pownall completed the Lions’ score.

Riverdale was paced by UMBC signee Lauren Chase, with 14 points, and by Deja Hawkins and Temple recruit Tyonna Williams, who each scored 13.

“In both our games down there we didn’t handle the pressure very well, and I’m not just talking about the 30-second clock,” Morris admitted. “We turned the ball over a lot, and many times they weren’t really forced turnovers.”

In Saturday’s game Spalding surged to an 18-2 advantage in the first quarter, then increased its lead more slowly after that. Boggs reached double digits for Springside with 12 points, followed by Garner with eight and Crotty with seven. The Lions received four points from Epps and two each from Pownall and Schumacher.

Spalding was powered by 16 points from Shaquilla Curtis, who has verbally committed to American University, and 15 from Sherae Swinson, who is expected to accept a scholarship to New York’s Binghampton University. The Cavaliers other two NCAA Division I recruits, Maggie Morrison (Vanderbilt) and Brya Freeland (Lafayette), scored 11 and six points, respectively.

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