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Junior varsity: Where the skills are learned and polished

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.

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.

"The boys learned to trust one another, work hard and play a team game," coach Kelly Caprarola said.

For the second year in a row, Reservoir was the county's top team. The Gators had a 19-1 county record and 20-2 overall mark; over the past two years, the JV program has gone 39-5.

"As a coach, these kids made it easy for me," coach Owen Gaither said. "They just went out and played hard and, at times, could take their play to the next level."

Captains Aaron McDonald and Danny O'Hagan led the way and were like "assistants on the floor," according to their coach. Seth Henry was named team MVP while Kevin Mayers, Brett Davis, Alex Hedgren, Brandon Gaines, John Meirzwa, Dominic Lopes, Ryan Maloney and Jack Dudzinski all were important pieces on numerous occasions. The team did a particularly good job adjusting when sophomore Kyle Reilly was moved up to varsity midway through the year.

River Hill closed the season with a 5-16-1 overall record (5-13-1 in county), but there were plenty of highlights. Among the top moments was a last-second, game-winning shot against Atholton.

"When faced with adversity, the players pulled together as a team in order to finish the remainder of their season," coach Chris Kates said.

With a team of eight freshmen and seven sophomores, it was a relatively young group for the Hawks and that is something Kates says should bode well for the future. The team's captains were sophomores Deion Richardson and Michael Titus.

This winter marked the first season for Chapelgate in the MIAA B Conference and it was one filled with some very positive moments. The team opened the year with a 70-69 victory over local rival Glenelg Country and started its B Conference schedule with six straight wins.

Some struggles in the middle of the year resulted in an 8-10 conference record by season's end, but it was still good enough to place the team fifth out of 10 teams. On the year, the team played 11 games that were determined by five points or less and won two of them on shots at the buzzer. Brian Parker, with a lay-up against Coppin Academy, and Malik Grandy, with a floater against Gilman, were responsible for those two game-winning shots at the end of regulation.

Three freshmen led the team in scoring. Matthew Frierson averaged 14.3 points a game, hit 89 3-pointers and made 80 percent of his foul shots. Grandy (11.6 ppg) and Parker (10.4) also ended up averaging in double figures for the year.

Girls basketball

Atholton finished with an overall record of 9-10 and a league record of 5-6. The team captains were Becca Weinberg, Jaimie Cardea and Staci Powell.

Powell was voted as the team's MVP and Cardea won the Coaches Award and was the highest scorer with 167 points.

"Odoka Oji was our most improved player," coach Wendell Thomas said.

Centennial used a strong second half of the season to finish 7-13 overall and 6-13 in county play. After starting out 1-5, the team came together to go nearly .500 the rest of the way.

The top players on an extremely young team were captains Kemba Mitchell and Danielle Wilson. Mitchell, a forward, was the only sophomore on the squad.

Injuries and illness depleted the team as the year went on and for the team's final game against Hammond there were only five players available. One of those five ended up fouling out with 90 seconds to go in the game. Yet, even with only four players on the floor at the end, the Eagles got two foul shots from Mitchell with 18 seconds left and were able to secure a one-point win. It was "a great way to end the season," coach Sean LeBeau said.

There were only three sophomores on Glenelg, but they were each extremely important to the Gladiators' run to 18-2 in county play and 20-2 overall. Olivia Nowlin (151 points), Ally Forjet (164) and Brittney Everett (114) all served as captains and guided what was a young team. "They showed what leadership is all about," coach Chris Beil said.

Freshman Lola Fadiran also was a key player, making her presence felt inside en route to 137 points and 58 blocks on the year.

Among the highlights on the season was helping Howard County win the Doug Parker Christmas Tournament for the first time in three years by earning a 24-point win. Later in the year, the Gladiators came back from down three points in the fourth quarter to defeat River Hill by seven.

"I am looking forward to the freshmen rising up next year," Beil said. "With 13 girls coming back, I look forward to a similar season, if not better."

Howard completed another very successful season by going 21-1 overall. The Lions were undefeated (19-0) in county play.

"This year's team was very fortunate to have 14 players that all believed in a team-first concept," coach Will Pearl said.

"The highlight of this season was the complete team effort put forth in our only meeting against Glenelg High School. Both teams played very well; but a combination of clutch defensive plays and quick transitions at the end of the game are what sealed the victory for us," he added.

Howard's leading scorers were Chanel Bostic, Amanda Matus and Catherine Sims Matus, who also led the team in rebounds.

Ten of Marriotts Ridge's 15 players were freshmen and one of the sophomores did not play last year, so coach Derrick Burnett instituted what he calls BBALL 101, an introductory class and explanation of basketball. The Mustangs started with the fundamentals, and in Burnett's book the game begins with defense and defense leads to offense. The team's two presses were Dunkin' and Doughnuts.

Burnett brought his philosophy to the team. "You don't come to practice to practice and learn from just me as a coach, but you come to practice to show the coach what you have developed on your own time since the last practice."

It's that it's-what-you-do-outside-of-practice mentality that he hopes will pay off for Marriotts Ridge in future years.

"You have to commit as players, as parents and as a community if you are going to develop into a winning basketball program," Burnett said.

Receiving team awards this season were: Courtney Drude (Unsung Hero), Naomi Feldman (co-MVP, best defensive player), Olivia Geiger (co-MVP, best all-around player), Cassidy Delaney (co-Coaches Award, most athletic), Joan Condron (co-Coaches Award, toughest competitor) and Madelyn Courtney (Most Improved).

It was a breakout year for Mt. Hebron, which put together a 17-5 overall record (15-4 in county) under coach Jared Ettinger. The team outscored its opposition 895-530 on the season, picking up notable wins over Glenelg, River Hill, Reservoir and Oakland Mills along the way. "The team showed excellent maturity and resolve all season," Ettinger said.

The Vikings utilized all 13 girls on their roster in a variety of offensive and defensive schemes, but it was a pair of sophomores that consistently stood out. Janina Soriano was responsible for the point guard duties and led the team in points (nine points a game) and assists, while Monia Linn was a forward that could do a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor.

Other key players were Emily Purnell, Lauren Schaaf, Olivia Williams, Kelly Comiskey, Jessica Schroeder and Kristen DiStefano. "Our team thrived due to our up-tempo and physical play," Ettinger said. "We were dangerous in transition and executed a swarming full-court press very well."

Oakland Mills, led by four returning sophomores, finished with a 10-10 record. Diamond Lee was the only returning starter and ended the season as the team's leading scorer. She got help from the inside presence of Maranda Robinson, along with the all-around play from Jordan Kerr and Brandi Barnes.

"These girls always encouraged our freshmen to work hard and to improve," coach Christina Bleivik said.

Among the season highlights was a victory over Marriotts Ridge after the Scorpions had lost to the Mustangs by 30 points earlier in the year.

Freshman Natalie Raymond was the leading scorer and rebounder for Reservoir. She was also team MVP.

Freshman Anna Janush was tapped as the Unsung Hero and sophomore Sophia Mendez was named Most Improved.

The Gators produced a 12-8 overall record and were 12-7 in county play.

"This was my first season coaching at Reservoir High School," coach Eunice French said. "Our team began as a young, inexperienced group of 10 freshmen and two sophomores, each functioning as an individual. By the end of the season, this amazing group of girls transformed into a team, persevering through injuries and the pain of losing."

The Gators had academic talent as well as athletic talent. The team maintained at least a 3.25 grade-point average the entire season.

River Hill welcomed 10 freshmen to its team this year.

"With 10 new players to our program, I knew this season's focus had to be on teaching the fundamentals, getting in the weight room and developing as competitors," said coach Bianca Francoeur. After the first week of practice, she realized that the freshmen didn't play like freshmen.

Returning sophomores Rachel Bindel, Caitlin Gilbert and Ciana Robinson — all captains — provided the leadership for the Hawks, who went 14-5 in the county and 14-6 overall.

Chelsea Buchiane (11.2 ppg), Margaux Hrab (6.5) and Halley Seybold (6.1) were the team's leading scorers. Annie Clark, Ali Hovet, Julia Caine, Bindel and Gilbert also made scoring contributions, as did Silvia Kim, Robinson and Kendal Stull who came off the bench.

Naomi Muwowo and Anne Marie Rizkala also contributed to the successful season.

"Our season was great and its truly hard to see it end, but to close the boon on this season, as Silvia Kim would yell, 'Power clap on 3! ...1, 2, 3!" said Francoeur.

Wrestling

The JV county championships were held Feb. 18 at Oakland Mills High School. These were the top six finishers in each weight class.

106: 1. Tyler Ponton, Re; 2. Johnny Folea, Re; 3. Alex Potts, RH; 4. Adam Miller, RH; 5. Alex Nguyen, MH; 6. Jacob Kohen, Ho.

113: 1. Trent Kilcarr, Re; 2. Matt Sileo, OM; 3. Brandon Wilson, MH; 4. Jack Day, G; 5. Jeremiah Branch, Re; 6. Michael Bishoff, RH.

120: 1. Nathan Schiavone, Ho; 2. Matt Claxton, OM; 3. Joey McKinney, Ha; 4. Matt Shipley, RH; 5. Austin Seaman, MR; 6. Zach Wolf, RH.

126: 1. Tyler Anderson, WL; 2. Anthony DiMeo, Ha; 3. Liam Curran, MH; 4. Brandon Lee, RH; 5. Anthony Presti, RH; 6. Alex German, MR.

132: 1. Eric D'Amico, A; 2. Horatio Menendez, Re; 3. Sam Harding, RH; 4. Chris Dornan, G; 5. Bo Borkowski, G; 6. Bradley Fasulo, C.

138: 1. Ben Fisher, A; 2. Adam Glass, WL; 3. Cuinn Mullins, WL; 4. Xavier Reeves, WL; 5. Hamza Riaz, C; 6. Zach Gurganus, G.

145: 1. Jay Chung, A; 2. Stephen Sims, Re; 3. Matt Jung, G; 4. Colin Hawes, Ho; 5. Andy Mayhew, G; 6. Brett Reisman, RH.

152: 1. Donovan Delore, RH; 2. Sean Kelly, MH; 3. Bradley Montecino, OM; 4. Chris McTague, MR; 5. Omar Delen, MR; 6. Gabriel Rizk, MR.

160: 1. Nizami Barton, C; 2. Ben Ballard, Ha; 3. Steven Petrillo, Re; 4. Anthony Gough, WL; 5. James Nardei, C; 6. Vince Rider, C.

170: 1. Grant Echols, A; 2. Kyle Wilkins, Re; 3. Donnie Mullinix, G; 4. Bebe Kum, RH; 5. Andrew Ansaldi, MH; 6. Chris Peppe, LR.

182: 1. Kyle Williams, Re; 2. Austin Day, MH; 3. Xavier Franks, WL; 4. Jake Tetlow, G; 5. Joey Celtnicks, OM; 6. Justin Chen, MH.

195: 1. Mike Shin, G; 2. Brandon Wood, Ha; 3. Nick Suri, MH; 4. Shane Christianson, RH; 5. Nick Darvish, RH.

220: 1. Jeremy Nelson, Ha; 2. Albert Kim, MH; 3. Samuel Ajala, Ha; 4. Yanni Chamborlis, MH; 5. Marquis Myers, Ha; 6. Dakota Troutman, RH.

285: 1. Alex Krynski, MH; 2. Michael Bentivenga, MR; 3. Theyartis Edwards, WL; 4. JD Huffman, LR; 5. Gino Valentin, MR; 6. Justin Nelson, Ha.

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