Friends girls basketball picks up tempo, victories

Friends girls basketball coach Mike Wall and his assistant Ken Zalis didn't like the "slow, plodding style" of the Quakers' half-court offense. So they decided to change gears.

"We would run the shot clock down and get a good shot off," Zalis said, "[but] we were getting off to slow starts. We wanted to put more pressure on other teams."

Wall and Zalis decided started putting the pedal to the metal in a home game on Jan. 10 against Gerstell Academy.

The Quakers' started their fastbreak offense, and the coaching staff likes the results. After a 2-6 start, Friends has gone 4-4.

"It has really helped us," Zalis said. "Early in the season, we were averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 28 points a game. We have upped it to 40 points a game. Our running style has allowed us to put up points and get off to a good start in the first quarter."

With Friends playing better, the Qaukers are gearing up for the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference tournament, which starts Feb. 7.

The Quakers would welcome a rerun of last year when they reached the semifinals after upsetting Garrison Forest.

Friends will need strong play from junior guard/forward Rachel Kehoe, junior center Morgan Ball and junior point Bianca Washington in the postseason.

The Quakers also rely on junior guard Alexis Heath, senior guard Paige Shephard and senior forward Rose Woolson.

"A good season for us is over .500 in the division and a home playoff game," Zalis said. "We want to at least get to the semifinals once again. Then who knows? St. Timothy's and Catholic are the bread winners in the conference, but you never know what can happen."

To earn a home playoff game, Friends would need to finish second in the six-team Y Division of the C Conference.

Beth Tfiloh dealt the Quakers a setback in that pursuit by beating Friends, which is 5-8 in league play, 46-43 on Jan. 29.

Goiing into the final week of the regular season, the Quakers are in fourth place, a game behind Beth Tfiloh and two behind Glenelg Country.

They play at Glenelg Country and have a home-and-home series with last-place Baltimore Lutheran to finish the regular season.

"We are improving, and the effort is there," said Wall, a third-year coach. "We just have to work on some things."

The 5-foot-9 Ball has given Friends strength inside. She averages a team-high nine rebounds, recording double figures in in rebounds in nine games.

"She has stepped up in a big way," Wall said. "She used to not know how to outlet the ball and she would turn it over. Now she knows what she is doing and makes great passes."

Kehoe runs the offense and averages 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals per game. She had 22 points and 11 steals in a 57-31 victory over Park on Jan. 24.

"She is our leader," Wall said of Kehoe, who will play lacrosse at UMBC next year. "She is aggressive, knows what to do with the ball and how to get to the basket. She does what ever you ask her and will play any position. She pretty much stays out there the entire time."

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