St. Paul's School for Girls coach Jim Stromberg has the second-youngest team in his 11-year tenure, featuring an eye-catching 11 underclassmen crowding the 15-player roster.
That's why it's no surprise that the Gators struggled, losing by at least 14 points to McDonogh, St. Mary's, Howard and DeLone Catholic.
"We were just learning how to play together," Stromberg said. "We have seven sophomores and (some) kids who don't play year-round. We were just trying to get ourselves together."
St. Paul's did, winning six of its next eight games.
Stromberg said his Gators have even been practicing like champions lately.
"I think the kids have finally set a tone," the coach explained. "They're saying, 'This is how hard we are going to practice win or lose.' If I knew why, I wouldn't be coaching here. They just clicked."
Seniors Eboni Dorsey, Haley McDonnell and Gia Stavrakis pushed the rest of the team to pick up the pace.
"Our seniors have been more vocal and better leaders," Stromberg said.
With St. Paul's playing at a high level, Stromberg won't allow expectations to be diminished by his team's youth.
"The goal is to be in the (Feb. 17) championship game," said Stromberg, whose team last won a B Conference title in 2009. "That's the only goal. You don't have to win it. You just have to be there."
Stromberg likes the mix of players in his starting lineup, including guard/forward Dorsey and forward McDonnell, the team's veterans.
"The two seniors have been on the team for four years," Stromberg said. "They are great leaders. They are very competitive."
Three sophomores who were on the varsity last season — guards Sharon Hull and Kaci McNeave and forward Jillian Randolph — round out the starting lineup.
"Jillian is a volleyball player trying to be a basketball player," Stromberg said. "She is coming along. Kaci, our point guard, is really steady. She can shoot the ball. Sharon is kid who plays all the time. and she is learning to play a different way."
St. Paul's has gotten off to a 1-2 start in the league. The Gators lost to St. Mary's, 48-33, on Dec. 3 in Annapolis in their opener.
"They are probably the best team in the B Conference," Stromberg said of the Saints (4-0 conference,13-2 overall).
St. Paul's topped Bryn Mawr, 38-26, in its next conference game at home Jan. 4 behind 11 points from Randolph.
The Gators, however, fell to visiting Indian Creek, of Crownville, five days later, 50-41.
St. Paul's couldn't slow down Indian Creek combo guard Cydni Cole, a St. Frances transfer who finished with 20 points, six steals, six assists and five rebounds. She had 16 points in the first half.