Rattlers to rely on veterans’ skill to defeat Eastern Shore

The mantra for the Rattlers before traveling to the Carolinas over the weekend was “get the sweep – not a split.” The orange and green did just that defeating the South Carolina State Bulldogs (72-65) and North Carolina A&T Aggies (75-71). The Rattlers (8-9, 4-2 MEAC) now sit in a three-way tie for third in conference play.

Coach Mike Gillespie acknowledged that veteran leadership will be vital to the squad’s continued success. “We’ve got to get senior leadership out of Jonathan Kelly and Tony Tate. If they can continue to play at a high level, we’ll be okay,” Gillespie said.

Senior forward Jonathan Kelly has accepted the challenge.

“I try to do anything I can to help the team. Maybe I won’t score as much, but I can lead the team in rebounding,” Kelly said.

The Tallahassee native is eighth in the conference in rebounds with 5.6 boards per game.

After the trip home, the men are now focused on Saturday’s contest against the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks.

UMES is led by 6-foot-9-inch senior forward Tim Parham. Parham averages 14.5 points and a conference-leading 9.5 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Jesse Brooks quarterbacks the UMES offense. Brooks poses a threat on both ends of the floor for the Rattlers. Brooks leads the MEAC with 5.1 assists and is seventh in steals with 1.5 per game.

Coach Gillespie shared his thoughts on the UMES squad and Tim Parham: “He’s an excellent player out of Chicago. They have three freshmen guards that can shoot the ball. Maryland Eastern Shore is a much improved team.”

Evenso, the Rattlers look forward to the upcoming two-game home stand. “We gotta protect our house,” Kelly said.

The Lady Rattlers endured a rocky road trip. The Lady Rattlers fell to the South Carolina State Lady Bulldogs (62-54) and North Carolina A&T Lady Aggies (73-66).

Despite both losses, the MEAC is wide open behind the first place Coppin State Lady Eagles. Five teams are currently tied for second place.

The Lady Rattlers (6-9, 2-4 MEAC) sit right behind this cluster. Coach Debra Clark offered ways for the squad to get back on track. “We’ve had way too many turnovers. We’re gonna have to really settle down,” Clark said.

Coach Clark’s club will look to turn its tenacious defense into more scoring opportunities. The orange and green are third in the conference in steals with 10.9 per game.

“We’re gonna have to turn up our defense a lot. We have a very athletic team. We have to use this to our advantage,” Clark said.

The Lady Rattlers welcomed back Ifeoma Onuaku over the weekend. The junior center saw action for the first time this season after recovering from a fractured foot. Onuaku registered 25 points and 13 rebounds during the two game trip.

Onuaku was excited to be back on the floor. “It’s a great feeling to be back on the court. I just plan on fulfilling my role,” Onuaku said.

Onuaku said her role was to play good defense, rebound and score. Coach Clark is pleased with Onuaku’s return. “She’s 6(foot) 3(inches) and she’s got good hands. Her physical presence on both ends brings a whole other dimension to this team,” Clark said.

The Maryland Eastern Shore Lady Hawks are led by sophomore center Kristi Veltkamp and senior guard Toni Kennedy. Veltkamp leads the league with 2.5 blocks and is fifth in scoring with 14.5 points per game.

According to Coach Clark, the team will work to deny Veltkamp the ball. Kennedy is second in the conference in scoring with 16.3 points and third in steals with three per game. The women face off against UMES at 2 p.m. and the men at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21.

Contact John W. Marsh at thefamuansports@hotmail.com