Winter JV sports

Hammond's Patrick Wallace sinks a free throw during a JV boys basketball game against Howard Feb. 9. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / February 9, 2012)

The uniforms may have been handed down from the varsity, the games aren't played in prime time, the skills might not be as flashy and no official county champion is declared, but that doesn't mean that junior varsity sports are any less team oriented or competitive.

The JV team is where fundamental skills and game concepts are taught. Skills that hopefully will eventually land the athlete a spot on the varsity.

No matter if the team went 20-0 or 0-20, lessons were learned, friendships forged and memories made.

We contacted each school's athletic director and asked that the JV coaches email us a wrap-up of their team's season, including some of the outstanding players and some of the highlights. This is what we heard.

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Boys basketball

Atholton finished 10-6-3 in county play and 13-6-3 overall, putting it among the county's upper echelon. But, according to coach Jared Albert, getting there took battling through some heartbreak.

The Raiders lost an early-season game to River Hill at the buzzer that served as a tremendous motivator. "I feel like that was the turning point in our season," Albert said. "Our practices became more intense and competitive, which is what you want them to be as a coach."

On the season, sophomore forward Michael Bernetti ended up leading the team in total points and rebounds. Using his body well in the post and also hitting shots from long range, he finished with 279 points to go with 157 rebounds. He was named the team's most valuable player.

Sophomore forward Anthony Moore (108 points, 99 rebounds) was second on the team in points and rebounds, while sophomore point guard Jordan Mason led the team with 50 assists. Other key players were sophomore Ross Perdue (85 points, 85 rebounds, 45 steals and 17 blocks) and sophomore Marc Fleming, who did a little bit of everything as a key part of the team's chemistry.

Centennial, put together a second-straight 16-4 record with a squad that included 11 newcomers. "The real enjoyment comes from coaching a relatively new team with many question marks and seeing them turn steadily into a strong team," coach Chris Sanders said.

The Eagles won 12 of their first 13 games to set the tone for a campaign where they outscored the opposition by more than 250 points, shot 72 percent from the free-throw line and out-rebounded opponents by an average of nine a game.

Chase Conley (15 points, 10 rebounds a game), Walter Fletcher (17 points, five steals, five assists a game) and Logan Tignall (seven points, eight rebounds a game) provided the sophomore leadership from day one. They also set the tone defensively.

Sophomores Stephen Driscoll (six points a game) and Matt Ung chipped in with timely shooting, ball handling and floor vision, especially once Fletcher was called up to varsity late in the year. Other contributors were freshmen Chad Strothers, Nick Benavides, Eli Geist and Isaiah White.

After somewhat of a rough beginning to the season, Howard closed by winning three of its last four to finish with a 7-13 record. For a team that played a large contingent of freshmen, it was a great sign for the future. "We started to come together as a team and really improved our play," coach Nils Schroder said.

One of those key freshmen was point guard Kyle Lowenkron. He was the team's biggest threat from long range, making an average of 2.1 threes per game and helped the team decrease its turnovers down the stretch. Sophomore Neil Caruso finished as the team's top rebounder (8.2 per game), while Mat Von Neida was also a terrific presence in the paint. He finished averaging nine points a night and had several games of 15 points or more.

It was a culture-changing year for Marriotts Ridge, according to coach Ian Pope. A team primarily made up of guards thrived on pressuring opponents on its way to a 12-7-1 record. "During the course of the season, JV and varsity thrived off of one another's energy," Pope said. "Our JV crowds grew and this helped to build community, confidence and overall performance of the team."

Freshman Alex Caffes was a "flat out scorer" according to his coach and finished averaging 14 points and four steals per game. Sophomore Jake Bender (12 points, three steals per game) served as "the vocal leader" and sophomore Amir Najib (10 points, five assists game) brought a winning mentality after playing for the Mustangs' state championship soccer team.

Among the memorable moments was the team's win late in the season over a Centennial team that had beaten them earlier in the year.

Mt. Hebron finished the year strong by winning its last six games for a 16-4-2 overall record. During that closing stretch, the team avenged one of its ties and one of its losses from earlier in the year.

Dave Herlihy (15 points per game), Mike Duan (six), Zach Andreas (five) and Ben Kalra (three) provided sophomore leadership on a team that got contributions from everyone. Connor Maloney, Joey Trapuzzano, Mark Smith, Josh Bryant, Justin Burk, Ian Reid, Michael Brooks, Alex McKenzie, Jovon Harris, Aaren Smith and Alec Vaughan all played key roles at different points of the year.