Laurel High senior Megan Brown's skill and versatility are valuable on the basketball court. She's also pretty good at making predictions, such as the one that appeared in the Laurel Leader in early December.
"We are going to have to be very scrappy," said Brown, in a preseason profile of the Spartans.
That was a common thread for Laurel's journey through the tough Prince George's County league this winter. Coach Tommy Harrison's squad posted another winning season while being one of the smallest teams in the league.
An 11-6 league mark shows that the Spartans didn't back down. They carried that attitude through Class 4A South sectional and regional play that concluded with a 67-32 loss to Eleanor Roosevelt on March 8.
Harrison cited two games during the regular season that he though exemplified the team's fortitude.
The first came after a blowout 57-11 loss to Eleanor Roosevelt when, in the rematch, the Spartans' offense improved significantly in a 72-40 setback to the league champs.
"The freshmen were shell-shocked in the early part of the season," said Harrison, whose Spartans beat Parkdale and DuVal in the sectional portion of the postseason.
"The youngsters had to learn to stay in shape and that nobody in this league is going to lay down for you. We were one of the smallest teams in the league, so we had to box out and fight for every rebound, play defense and trap. And a lot of our plays were contingent upon us setting picks for the pick-and-roll, two-man game."
With those lessons learned, after Laurel was routed by Bowie, 70-36, in early January the Spartans rallied to nip the Bulldogs, 63-62, a month later when Brown and senior point guard Lisa Ling combined for 47 points.
"We hit 11 threes," Harrison said. "We executed very well that day."
Harrison added that fans were surprised when they found out the outcome.
"We told them that we won, and they said, 'What?' " he recalled.
Making up that much ground for a team that graduated three starters after a 14-10 campaign last winter says something about the coach and his players. The Spartans don't have a built-in feeder system some rival programs enjoy.
That means Harrison sometimes has had to start from scratch on the first day of practice. "I've had to teach kids how to dribble and pivot," he said. "That should not be happening at the varsity level."
Harrison takes pride in his team's determination. "We are a team," Harrison said. "We're very unselfish. Nobody cares who scores."
Harrison said that Brown, who can play all five positions on the floor, and Jing kept the Spartans on an even keel.
They both averaged 16 points per game while Brown, nicknamed "Stats" by her teammates, averaged 14 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocks per game for the Spartans (13-10 overall). Ling pitched in with seven assists and three steals per outing.
Other contributors included freshman guard Nayieh Miller, who had 14 steals against Parkdale, and junior forwards Ivie Foster and Omason Oyebi — an aggressive defensive specialist.