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UAB's Holland helps drive to the big show

An East Lake High graduate is playing a key role in the University of Alabama-Birmingham's drive toward the women's NCAA basketball tournament.

Senior co-captain Holly Holland, a three-year starter at guard, averages 9.4 points and 3.0 rebounds a game and a team-leading .824 percent from the free-throw line.

Her high game was 27 points in a win over Houston last season.

Two weeks ago, in a regionally Two weeks ago, in a regionally televised game, Holland scored 12 points, including 5-for-5 from the free-throw line, in a key Conference USA win over visiting South Florida.

In that game, Holland set up some easy inside scores with pinpoint passing to teammates cutting across the lane.

UAB coach Jeannie Milling said Holland is strong at both ends of the court.

"Holly's passing has always been excellent," Milling said in a phone interview, "but this year she's really improved her defensive skills. We usually put her on our opponents' top scorer. We have a strong post game and that's because Holly gets the ball inside. She's also our go-to player from three-point range. She's a leader in all areas as the team's elected senior captain."

Off the court, Holland carries a 3.4 grade-point average and majors in mass communications with an eye on a future in television.

She's a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society, the dean's list and the president's list.

"Holly pulls the team together," Milling said. "She's very vocal and dedicated, giving 110 percent always trying to hold the team together. I've never had a problem with her work ethic. In fact, she wanted to play earlier in the season when she was down with bronchitis. And she's had to overcome some serious injuries during her career, including a torn ACL coming out of high school and then breaking her kneecap here during her sophomore year."

Holland said she's optimistic about finally getting to the Big Dance this year.

"If we can avoid getting knocked out of the conference tournament's first round, we should get invited to the NCAAs," Holland said. "This is the best team we've had here in four years. I'm glad I came here to Birmingham. We all get along well and travel to some neat places."

The UAB Blazers travel to Tampa to play USF next Sunday for a 2 p.m. game at the Sun Dome. The UAB (12-6) is in second place in the Conference USA standings behind co-leaders Tulane and Marquette. Three or four teams from the conference are expected to be invited to the NCAA tournament.

BARRY UNIVERSITY: Six-foot power forward Angie Williams (Boca Ciega), the leading scorer in Buccaneer women's basketball history, has helped the team (15-4 overall) stake a tie for first place in the Division II Sunshine State Conference. She has missed seven games this season with a serious shoulder injury.

In a late November game, Williams got slammed under the boards and had her shoulder knocked out of its socket.

"'Angie missed all of December and is just getting back in synch," Barry sports information director Fred Battenfield said. "She's a banger under the boards, very aggressive, and that injury happened while she was fighting for a rebound."

She averages 11.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. Those stats are down from last season when she averaged 20.7 points and 8.9 boards and earned conference player of the year honors. Williams began the season pegged for all-America honors after being named to the fourth team last year.

Williams played a key role in Boca Ciega winning the Class 5A state championship back-to-back in 1995-96. She averaged 17.8 points her senior season and was named to the Times all-Suncoast second team.