While temperatures cool off during the winter months, the action inside Howard County gyms heats up. And, while the attention and focus tends to be on the performance of the varsity programs, there’s still plenty of growth and noteworthy play being put together by their junior varsity brethren.
This year was no different, as the standout players of tomorrow built relationships and learned skills that will prove to be invaluable moving forward. There were highlight plays, big victories and plenty of memories made. But most importantly, the foundation was laid for future success both on and off the court.
In an effort to give these teams and individuals a deserved moment in the spotlight, we reached out to each school through their athletic administration to find out about some of the highlights and top performers from the fall season. Here's what we heard back:
With an average of 51 points per game offensively, Atholton finished with an 11-11 overall record. Under the guidance of coach Brian Jamison, who helped the Atholton JV football team to a 9-1 record in the fall, the Raiders’ basketball squad adopted a toughness and defensive mindset.
The team was led in points scored on the year by Connor Marshal (221 points). Casey Parkins (167), Phillip Mitchell (143) and Justin Oates (136) also turned in strong offensive seasons.
In addition to points, Marshall also led the team with 21 total 3-pointers and 35 assists. Donald Robinson (16 threes) and Oates (14) also were strong shooters from the perimeter and Atholton had seven games where it hit at least five 3-pointers as a team.
The team also averaged 10 assists a game, with Parkins (33 assists) and Oates (31) standing out in that category.
Jabari Rankin finished as the team leader in blocks with six.
During the second half of the season, Oates and Parkins were each pulled up to the varsity squad.
Centennial returned five sophomores and also brought in a talented freshmen class on its way to finishing the season with a 17-2 county record and an overall mark of 19-3.
“We had some returning experience that provided leadership, scoring and rebounding at key times,” coach Christian Sanders said. “That experience, along with the ability of seven newcomers, made practices highly competitive. Once a team gets over the growing pains at the beginning of the season and becomes more confident with the scheme, then you start to see a true measure of their potential.”
Utilizing a man-to-man defensive scheme, the Eagles allowed just 43.6 points against a game. The offense, meanwhile, was well balanced and averaged 61.8 points a game.
Sophomores Ryan Hollwedel (12.5 points per game, 7.6 rebounds), Stafford Smith (13.1 ppg) and Cameron Berkeley (10.1 ppg) were the leaders, but freshmen Joey Sedlacko (9.7 ppg) and Brandon Bonner (8.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg) were consistent contributors as well.
Sophomores Matt Merkey and Michael Kefyalew chipped in with timely leadership, scoring and playmaking. Newcomers Ty Samms, Zach Grable, Matt Schickner, Jeong Hwang and Connor Carpenter each contributed in different ways on both ends of the court.
Glenelg finished the season with a record of 13-9, getting strong play all year from the backcourt duo of Dan Soltis and Carson Dick.
Soltis finished with averages of 6.7 points and 2.5 assists a game, while Dick averaged 10.3 points and 2.3 assists. Sophomore Hunter Koele, meanwhile, served as a the glue, which paced the team defensively with 12 charges taken.
Ethan Chappell (8 points per game) returned to the team after suffering a season-ending leg injury last winter. Charles Onwumbiko was a strong rebounder and passer in the post.
Other top players were Football Offensive Player of the Year Wande Owens — throwing down highlight dunks and averaging 2.5 steals a game — and Johnny Piwowarski (20 3-pointers made). Sophomores Tyler Smith and Otto Trawick contributed with toughness and unselfishness on both ends, while freshman Jack Walsh posted three double-doubles with points and rebounds.
Season highlights for the Gladiators included a 78-48 win over South River and a 88-52 victory over Southern (AA) in the Gwynn Park Holiday Tournament. In those two games, the team combined for 42 total assists.
Glenelg Country had one of its most successful seasons in recent history, going 9-7 in the MIAA A conference and 14-8 overall. The Dragons were led offensively by sophomore Hamzah Rushdan, who averaged 13 points a game, freshman point guard Jarod Robinson and freshman Ian Swartz, who led the team in rebounding.
“We had a lot of individual talent this year, but it was how this group of young men came together as a true team that led to our success. Every night you saw the love they have for the game and competing for the man next to them. It says a lot about the future of our program to have players that have a never-say-die mentality, “ coach Aaron Tolentino said.
This mentality was evident in a 57-53 win over Mount St. Joseph early in the season. The Dragons went down 21-5 in the first half, but they stayed together and completed one of the greatest comebacks in program history.
With a roster made up of seven sophomores and eight freshmen, six of which were returners, Howard finished the year with a record of 10-10.
Gabe Williams (10.3 points per game), Aidan O’Connor (6.3 ppg), Jeff Bruner (5.3 ppg), Savien Wilson (4.8 ppg) and Ryan Taylor (4.0 ppg and 23 3-pointers made) led the offense. On defense, Ben Stephanos (4 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game), Will Simmons (3.8 rpg) and Colton Jones (2.5 rpg) were the leaders.
Other strong contributions came from Trivon Wambura, Will Drnach, Darrion Harris, Brian Tien, Aaron Leong and Charles Tart.
Among the season highlights were last-second shots by Wilson and Bruner that secured two separate victories.
“The team faced a lot of adversity throughout the season and how they supported each other through these periods was commendable,” coach Michael Twardowicz said.
With a young team learning to play together, Long Reach took its lumps early. But as the season progressed, the Lightning showed great progress and ended up finishing with an overall record of 9-11 (6-10 county).
“Our season started very rocky. With a lot of freshmen playing a majority of the minutes, there would be a lot of mental lapses during games,” coach Obi Ukwuoma said. “However, to our JV kids’ credit, they kept working and when we returned from winter break we embarked on a four-game winning streak.”
While injuries slowed things down a little, the team still managed to play .500 basketball the rest of the way.
Sophomore Elijah Modeste was the team’s top scorer, showcasing the ability to both shoot the ball and attack the basket with either hand. He also was a very good on-the-ball defender, generating a lot of steals.
Elijah Saunders was the team’s top post player, top rebounder and a presence in the paint defensively, which allowed the guards on the team to play more aggressively.
Freshmen Carey Olivis and Darelle Raymond were also key pieces all season.
Olivis was a good shooter and showcased the ability to play multiple positions. His length and athleticism helped him excel in the team’s full-court press and his success on the season earned him a call up to varsity for the playoffs.
Raymond, meanwhile, was the team’s starting point guard. He was another top defensive player for the team, using hustle and heart to make up for what he lacked in size. He was looked to as a “leader and sparkplug” for the team, according to his coach.
“All in all, the season was something we can build on,” Ukwuoma said. “The players worked very hard and became better and smarter players by season’s end.”
Mt. Hebron finished just a game below .500 overall this winter, going 10-11-1 and 5-10-1 in county play. There were several big wins, with a comeback victory over Catonsville right near the top of the list. After trailing 18-2 12 minutes into the game, the Vikings stormed back to win by double digits.
Chris VanderVat averaged 10 points a game and served as the team’s leading scorer. A threat both offensively and defensively, VanderVat was particularly dangerous from 3-point range.
Tyray Cooper was Mt. Hebron’ second leading scorer, showcasing the ability to get to the rim and create offense for himself and his teammates. Josh Kinloch, meanwhile, was the team’s top rebounder.
Reservoir put together a 19-1 county record and 20-2 mark overall on the way to winning the JV county title. Coach Ian Pope said it was a “family” atmosphere this winter.
“Between all of the coaches, supportive parents, awesome players and surrounding communities, it made for one awesome season,” Pope said. “Everyone contributed at various times on our team from top to bottom throughout our season together.”
Among the standout efforts was a victory over Marriotts Ridge in a memorial game for one of Pope’s former players — Greg Speelman — who recently passed away. Also a buzzer-beater victory over Centennial late in the season to clinch the county’s best record served as a season highlight.
Behind a strong leadership core, Wilde Lake finished with an overall record of 13-7. “Throughout the season, the team experienced many challenges. They responded to adversity by supporting each other, sticking together, and practicing and playing with passion,” coach Peter Bergin said.
Team captains Marc Marshall, Will Zimmerman, Ben Chamblee and Eric Schneider were all standouts and set the tone for the team. To go along with them, the floor generals were Marcus Mitchell, Taha Ali and Ameen Moore. Emmanuel Wright contributed as a dynamic player on both ends of the floor.
A December win over Oakland Mills was among the season highlights.
“Down by 12 points in the fourth quarter, the team battled back by buckling down defensively and executing offensively down the stretch,” Bergin said. “The team’s sense of urgency, pride and grit to fight back and not to give up became their performance hallmarks for the season.”
It was a standout season for Atholton, which finished with a 16-3 record. Sophomore captains Caroline Morton and Sydnee Ruley led the team in points and steals, excelling with their quickness in the backcourt.
Mary Kate Gelak was the third captain on the team, providing consistent play from the free throw line and using her size in the paint to serve as a team leader in rebounds. Julia Perlin was another sophomore that helped lead the team, grabbing rebounds and making hustle plays.
Freshman Keenan Porter was an immediate contributor that will be a key player next year as well.
Of the team’s victories, narrow triumphs over Howard and McDonogh were at the top of the list. The Raiders beat the Lions 33-32 in December and the Eagles by a score of 37-35 in January. “Pulling out wins in close game is always exciting, not only for the players, but for us coaches and the fans,” coach Avery Briscoe said.
Centennial built itself into one of the top county teams by season’s end, finishing with a 10-6 county record and 12-9 record overall.
“This team showed more growth during a single season than any other team I have coached,” coach Billy Martin said. “This growth was most evident in the way the girls played defense.”
After allowing Mt. Hebron to score 35 points and Howard to score 42 in the first meetings against those programs, the Eagles regrouped to hold the Vikings to 13 and the Lions to 24 the second time around. Of all the big wins, though, an overtime victory over Glenelg was near the top of the list.
In that game against the Gladiators, Centennial got a free throw from Olivia Reese to tie it at the end of regulation and then outscored Glenelg 11-2 in the extra period to win 43-34.
Reese finished the season as the Eagles’ top scorer with 13.6 points per game, taking advantage of her ability to drive to the basket, score off put-backs and also hit jump shots. Jordan Dossett also was a top offensive player, averaging 10.8 points a game while serving as the team’s primary ball handler and distributor.
Sophomore Madison Fowler, meanwhile, served as a captain and team leader. “She was a very hard worker during practice and played every game with the intensity and heart expected of Centennial basketball players,” Martin said. “She was an excellent defender and played a key role in making our offense work.”
Another key contributor was sophomore Sarah Sopchick, who was tasked with guarding the opposition’s best offensive player and thrived in the role. She played almost every minute of every game.
Freshmen Kaylah Smith and Gigi Castle-Smith chipped in with their standout defense and rebounding.
Hammond took its lumps early in the season, but regrouped to finish with five county wins and a 6-13 overall record.
“After getting off to a very slow start, our team became very competitive as the season progressed. Most of my kids were new to the game of basketball, but they were all committed to learning and competing,” coach Ellis Strickland said.
Keisean Brown was the Golden Bears’ top player, often leading the way in points and serving as a consistent defender and leader. Aryss Lindsay was the team’s most athletic player, also leading the team in scoring on several occasions.
The highlights of the season included a three-game winning streak after losing the first six games of the year. “The team showed significant growth from November to February and I expect several players to return next year and continue their development,” Strickland said.
Howard started the season with just four returning players — Jenna Pasternak, Macy Thames, Vivian Williams and Lauren Ciepiela — but those sophomores set the tone for what was another successful season. The Lions ended up finishing with a 14-2 county record and a 16-3 mark overall.
“It was the attitude and willingness to work hard of each and every one of these young ladies that lifted this team,” coach James Stewart said.
Freshmen Lily Fritz and Anii Harris grew into starting roles, while other freshmen contributions in games and practice came from Jenna Peed, Leah Spalding, Kelly Schluederberg and Kamerin McDuffie.
“The work ethic of this freshmen-dominated team was so infectious that all involved, including Paige Eakes, Grace Bounds and Natalie Handwerk, worked hard while continuing to develop their fundamentals and skills in order to contribute to the team’s success,” Stewart said.
After letting games against Atholton and Marriotts Ridge slip away in county play, the Lions regrouped down the stretch to fight off comeback efforts from Centennial and Atholton in order to finish strong.
Led by the play of Malaya Streeter, who averaged 15 points per game, Long Reach had a successful season. Streeter was a force on both offense and defense, providing great rebounding to go with her scoring.
Other great contributions came from De’Aja Green and Araksun Omar, who each improved throughout the season to play key roles in the team’s production on the court.
“We were a young group in terms of experience, but they played extremely hard and worked very hard at getting better each day,” coach Rashida Challenger said.
Among the season highlights was a win over Mt. Hebron after the Lightning had trailed most of the game. Down six points in the fourth quarter, Long Reach came back to win by four. “It was a gutsy performance that consisted of contributions from everyone,” Challenger said.
After losing its first game, a Marriotts Ridge team led by eight sophomores went on to finish with 18 straight wins and the county’s best record. In fact, it was the first time any Marriotts Ridge JV or varsity squad has gone undefeated in the county in basketball.
The lone loss came in overtime against South Carroll, 40-38. The rest of the way, opponents averaged just 17 points a game as the Mustangs took advantage of their full-court press to keep other teams off balance and score in transition. Amanda Levey, Tyler Colburn, Andrea Plano, Aly Wagner and Cady Noll led those defensive efforts.
On offense, Caroline Crawford, Emma Miller and Jenna Kohler set the scoring pace and Azaria Smith controlled the rebounds. Erin Cooke and Brigit Crosby led the way in assists.
Mt. Hebron was a young group, featuring only four returning players coming into the year, but was able to build toward a 6-10 county record.
“It was a young and feisty group this year … with hard work, we were able to make great strides forward,” coach Dennis Kelliher said. “We were very competitive even though our record did not show how close the games were.”
Caitlin Madden finished as the team’s offensive MVP with over 200 points, while Megan Reese was the Vikings’ defensive MVP. Other major contributions came from freshmen Christina Bodziak (Rookie of the Year), Isabel Freeney, Ciara Coe and Olivia Kryger.
After going a couple years without a victory, Oakland Mills made significant positive strides this winter on the way to a 3-13-1 record. Coach Donta Legette said that it was obvious fairly early on that this was a different group from prior seasons, noting a tie against Glen Burnie during its holiday tournament as a turning point.
“The game ended in a tie, however, the girls were excited and played really well against a well-coached team. It felt like a playoff-type environment,” Legette said. “I could see the nervousness in the girl’s eyes but they kept playing through everything. That is when I knew I had something special this year.”
The team’s top players were Samia Bansura, Brianna Brown, Tamia Bydvme, Megan Gunther, Brianna Holland, Victoria Ojo, Ingrid Portillo and Traci Williams.
“These young ladies came to practice with a ready-to-go attitude,” Legette said. “They were excited about basketball, and it kept me even more excited.”
Reservoir finished with just two wins, but there was significant strides made by the players as the season progressed.
“As a team, we have grown tremendously this season,” coach James Mackin said. “We were a young team with a minimal amount of basketball experience. The best part of the season was to see continual improvement from week to week and from game to game.
Sophomore guard Gabby Clark finished as the team’s leading scorer with 7.6 points a game, while also leading the team in assists with almost five a game. Freshman guard Tessa Cinotti led the team in steals (4.3 a game) and sophomore forward Kennedy Hawkins led the way in rebounds (6.9 a game).
“Without a doubt, our strength was our defense,” Mackin said. “It was rewarding to hold most teams to their lowest scores of the season. We always played hard, fought to the end and won and lost as a team.”
River Hill finished 14-4 in county play and 15-5 overall. Sophomore point guard Maggie O’Keefe led the team in scoring with an average of 10 points per game, including a single-game high of 19 points against Marriotts Ridge.
Freshman center Alexa Thompson also had a standout year, averaging seven points a game and scoring a season-high 23 points against Oakland Mills.
There were several season highlights, but the team’s 39-34 victory over Glenelg to close the season was right there near the top of the list. The entire team contributed to the win, including six points off the bench and solid defense from Leah McCann in the second half. “The game was intense and the girls played really hard. The entire team gave it their all and we won,” coach Ayanna Randolph said. “It was a great way to end the season.”
Atholton had the top JV team in the county this winter and finished 13-0 for the first time in team history. Shea Collins (120 pounds) and Michael Johnson (152) won county titles and Sebastian Silberman (126), Jordan Fore (170) and David Nguyen (182) placed second and Sam Johnson (113) took third.
The Raiders also placed eight wrestlers at the District V tournament. Collins, Michael Johnson, Nguyen and Silberman took home titles and Sam Johnson and Aiden Healey (138) took second. Jana Tumaneng also won the Maryland all-girls state championship.
Centennial had a number of wrestlers contribute to the varsity lineup, including Zaid Narmouq (120), Peter Gruys (113) and Noah Bussink (220). Bussink finished second at the county tournament, while Narmouq placed third, Eric Na (152) took fourth and Gruys finished sixth.
Glenelg’s varsity squad was dealt a handful of injuries this season but had several JV wrestlers move into the varsity lineup and have success. Jake Arnone wrestled most of the season on JV but competed for the varsity team in the state duals, where he won an overtime match to help the Gladiators advance to the final.
Michael Thogerson, Michael Doughty and Reed Kraemer also made contributions to the varsity team that won a county and regional championship. Magdi Hassanein, Charlie Whitsett, Hunter Greenfield, Luke Gezelle, Daniel Amaya, Justin Silk and Josh Tetlow also had strong seasons for Glenelg.
Hammond finished 9-2 in county duals a year after not having enough wrestlers to fill the lineup. The Golden Bears finished the season with 18 JV wrestlers, including county champions Brayan Rios (113), Jayden Freshwater (heavyweight) and Jimmy Hill. Kevin Childress (160) and Noah Sheinhorn placed second and Greg Schiller took third.
Elisabeth Rogers, a four-year wrestler, competed in the Senior All-Star Classic and earned two first-period pins to be named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Female Wrestler.
“Elisabeth was always the hardest worker in the room, and over the years had filled in for us in the varsity lineup,” said Hammond coach William Yeo. “She never complained, never took days off and always supported her teammates. She will be sorely missed.”
Keneth Rios, Bawi Thawng, Ryan Curry, Elliott Bauer, Andre Workeman, Jacob Williamson and Christopher Alvarenga were other standouts for the Golden Bears.
“Overall our JV team showed tremendous heart and passion for each other,” Yeo said. “No matter where we were, our JV team was always the loudest in the gym and supported each other during each and every match. When JV finished wrestling and varsity took the mat, the JV team would gather in the corner of the stands and create a cheering section.”
Howard went 6-8 and had three wrestlers finish in the top four at the county tournament. Vomal Hewaporambage placed second, Gianni Talleyrand finished third and Nathan Gabriel took fourth.
Marriotts Ridge went 9-2 in county and 11-2 overall.
“This JV team was full of heart, toughness, and skill. In that order,” said Mustangs coach Doug Smith. “These athletes are setting the tone for the future of MRHS wrestling.”
River Hill finished with a .500 record this winter and was led by county champion Josh Min (195) and Matt Greenlee (126), who went undefeated in the regular season. Hawks coach Scott Cannon said a highlight of the season was beating Mt. Hebron to start the season.
2017 Howard County JV tournament finals:
106: Austin Manwiller (MR) pinned Noah Sheinhorn (Ha), 2:45; 113: Brayan Rios (Ha) pinned Brendan Glover (MR), 0:50; 120: Shea Collins (A) dec. Mark Tong (LR), 6-4; 126: Zubir Gohmon (OM) dec. Sebastian Silberman (A), 18-11; 132: Bryce Kampert (MH) pinned Zach Siegel (MR), 3:42; 138: Jimmy Hill (Ha) dec. Ryan Kelly (RH), 14-8; 145: Kwabena Bofah (LR) dec. Andres Flores (MH), 2-1; 152: Michael Johnson (A) dec. Rocco Delpo (OM), 6-2; 160: Stone Richardson (OM) dec. Kevin Childress (Ha), 1-0; 170: Darius Wilson (MR) dec. Jordan Fore (A), 7-3; 182: Hamzah Allen (OM) pinned David Nguyen (A), 1:54; 195: Josh Min (RH) dec. Ben Howe (Re). 5-1; 220: Tyler Vandenberge (MR) dec. Noah Bussink (C), 5-1; 285: Jaeden Freshwater (Ha) pinned Vomal Hewaporambage (Ho), 2:56.