Player of the Year
BJ Banjo Mercy, senior
The BJ really stands for Bola Jacqueline, but this season, it also meant Backcourt Jewel.
The 5-foot-5 guard brought a wealth of experience, a dazzling offensive repertoire and a gem of a defensive game to her senior year, but it was her emergence as a leader that made her so indispensable.
Banjo simply carried the Magic as far as she could take them - to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference tournament semifinals, a 16-10 record and the No. 5 ranking.
She consistently produced and continually encouraged her teammates, gently prodding them with her own desire to succeed.
"She really, at times, willed the team to where we ended up," said Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion. "The fact that she's not just a big scorer, the multitude of things she can do on the floor helped our team to be successful and helped the people around her to be better."
The Baltimore City/County Player of the Year and a second-team All-Metro pick last season, Banjo averaged 20 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 2.2 assists.
In "The Game," the annual showdown with archrival Institute of Notre Dame at the Towson Center, Banjo scored 24 points - including four free throws in the final 21 seconds - to seal a 57-51 win. In the IAAM semifinal loss to eventual champ Archbishop Spalding, she had 27 points.
"BJ's the type of kid who can put a team on her back," said Archbishop Spalding coach Deb Taylor. "She can create shots for herself and because she draws so much attention, she can create easy shots for her teammates. When you're keying on her, she can still get 25 points."
In just three years at Mercy, she scored 1,299 points. Banjo signed early with East Tennessee State.
Coach of the Year
Pam Wright Milford Mill
With the Millers trailing by 14 points going into the fourth quarter of the regional quarterfinal at Fallston, Pam Wright thought she would be out playing tennis the next day.
Instead, she ended up guiding the Millers all the way to the state final for a fifth straight time.
Her pep talk about Miller pride and the program's recent history fired up her young team enough to overtake Fallston, 66-62 in overtime. The No. 20 Millers (21-5) went on to beat Westlake in the state Class 3A semifinal before falling to Gwynn Park in the final.
In nine years with the Millers, Wright (181-36) has built one of the most successful girls programs in Baltimore County history.
In addition to the regional titles, the Millers won five straight county crowns between 1996 and 2000. This season fit right into that tradition even though Wright's starting point guard did not return, and she dropped her only senior from the team in January for disciplinary reasons, leaving two juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen to start.
"Because of the start we had and the up-and-down season, to finish like this is very rewarding. To have such a young team and to have this to build on gives all the young ones a taste and it helps the juniors, too. They'll really be hungry next year," said Wright, a Brooklyn Park graduate who played point guard at Morgan State.
Kia Coady St. Frances, senior
As a senior, Coady assumed leadership responsibility for a young team that held the No. 1 ranking for the first five weeks of the season and finished No. 4 with an 18-6 record. Her leadership helped hold the team together through a midseason stretch in which five teammates were suspended for several games.
The 5-foot-5 guard displayed a multitude of offensive skills. She could nail three-pointers, but she could also penetrate and she always had an eye on her teammates. She averaged 12 points and three assists.
One of her best games came in the IAAM A Conference quarterfinal, a 67-59 win over St. Mary's, in which she scored 24 points and hit five three-pointers.
Throughout her career, Coady proved a consistent scorer, averaging in double figures all four years and amassing 1,126 career points.
Chandrea Jones Institute of Notre Dame, freshman
The first freshman to make the All-Metro team in six years, Jones didn't take long to prove herself. In her first game, a 73-72 double-overtime loss to Bullis Prep, she scored 31 points.
The 5-foot-9 guard played like a veteran from that day on and quickly emerged as an impact player in the tough IAAM A Conference. Early on, her offense carried the No. 7 Indians (17-11) through several occasions when they were without one or two starters.
Nothing daunted Jones, who demonstrated smooth moves to the basket, long-distance range and a relentless will to win. She had 15 double doubles and scored 520 points, averaging 18.6 points as well as 8.6 rebounds and 3.6 steals.
Even when the Indians were at full strength, Jones stood out. She led them with 19 points in "The Game," the annual showdown with Mercy at the Towson Center.
Toni Kennedy Dunbar, senior
No shot ever seemed out of Kennedy's range and neither did a couple of Dunbar's career records.
The sharp-shooting senior guard ended her four-year run with 159 three-pointers and 1,570 points -- both Poets records.
Kennedy never lost a game at home as the Poets ran their Orleans Street streak to 48 and she never lost a game in the state tournament as the Poets won three straight titles. With her in the lineup, Dunbar went 94-10.
This season, she accepted a broader role when All-Metro backcourt mate Tiffany Jones was deemed out of eligibility, and she proved up to the challenge.
Kennedy, 5 feet 7, averaged 18 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists while leading the No. 3 Poets (26-1) to the Baltimore City title and the state Class 1A championship, which came on the heels of two straight Class 2A crowns.
Angel McCoughtry St. Frances, sophomore
One of the quickest inside players in the area, McCoughtry showed great instincts in the post, making slick moves to the hoop and picking off opponents' passes in the paint.
The lithe 6-foot forward showcased the complete package with a triple double -- 15 points, 15 rebounds, 10 steals -- in a 53-42 win over No. 17 McDonogh in late January that avenged an earlier loss.
The job wasn't easy for McCoughtry, who had to carry almost the entire inside load for the Panthers -- a role she had expected to share with 6-foot-2 senior Keila Evans. But when Evans was lost for the season early on with a knee injury that required surgery, the inside chores fell to McCoughtry. The sophomore stepped up to fill the void, contributing 12.6 points and 13 rebounds per game.
Jessica Norris Severna Park, junior
As Norris went, so did the Falcons. And the Falcons went pretty far -- recovering from a 9-14 season a year ago to finish 19-6 and win the Anne Arundel County title.
Norris, a versatile 5-foot-7 junior point guard, put the fire in an up-tempo Falcons offense. A great passer and exceptional ball-handler, Norris could also complete the break with her trademark slash to the basket.
She finished the season averaging 12.5 points, 5.6 assists, 4.9 steals and 3.1 rebounds.
Norris proved instrumental in helping the No. 14 Falcons overcome the loss of backcourt mate Lauren Hall to academic ineligibility by contributing 13 points, 4 assists and 4 steals in the county title victory over Chesapeake-AA. She scored 18 in an upset of defending county champ Arundel.
LaToya Strong Archbishop Spalding, senior
One of the best defensive players in the area, the 5-foot-7 Strong provided the spark that ignited the Cavaliers' drive to their first IAAM A Conference crown. The Anne Arundel Coun- ty Player of the Year switched from shooting guard to point guard after teammate Angela Schaech tore an anterior cruciate ligament two days before the season opened. Strong didn't miss a beat.
She led the No. 2 Cavaliers (24-11) with 4.7 assists and with 2.5 steals per game. She also chipped in 10.1 points and 3.0 rebounds while guarding the opposition's most dangerous perimeter player and handling the ball 90 percent of the time.
Strong, who made 85 three-pointers in her career, scored a game-high 15 points to lead the Cavaliers over Seton Keough, 45-42, in the A Conference tournament final.
Jackie Valderas Seton Keough, senior
The only player back from last year's first team, Valderas led the Gators to the best regular-season record in the IAAM A Conference and to the final No. 1 ranking.
The 6-foot senior center maintained her status as one of the area's most dominant post players, but she also showed good range on her jump shot, ran the floor well and looked to create opportunities for her three-point shooting teammates. She set a school single-season record with 68 blocks and averaged 10.8 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks as the Gators (25-6) finished second to Archbishop Spalding in the A Conference tournament.
In her final game, Valderas scored a season-high 21 to help upend then-No. 1 Spalding at the Bishop Walsh Tournament and reclaim the top ranking. She completed her career with 1,158 points.
Kristen Waagbo Mount Hebron, junior
The Howard County Player of the Year propelled the No. 6 Vikings to their first Howard County championship since 1993. She combined a dominating inside presence with a magnificent touch from outside to lead the Vikings to a 19-5 season.
A second-team All-Metro pick last season, Waagbo averaged 20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Her teammates relied on the 6-foot junior forward to pull them through in the clutch. She responded by scoring 20 points 14 times and breaking 30 three times. She scored a career-high 35 points in a 59-49 victory over Class 2A state finalist Hammond in December.
In the Feb. 14 contest that all but sealed the county title, Waagbo scored a game-high 19 points to lead the Vikings over River Hill, 51-49.
Tara Zammichieli Hammond, senior
The fire behind the Golden Bears' drive to the state Class 2A final, Zammichieli did a little bit of everything, providing whatever her team needed at the moment.
The 5-foot-9 point guard registered 20.7 points, 10.8 assists, 9 rebounds and 3 steals a game as the No. 11 Bears finished 21-7 after reaching the state title game for the first time in six years.
Also an All-Metro soccer goalie, Zammichieli proved a clutch player time and again, perhaps most notably when she scored the game-winner to edge River Hill, 51-50, in January. She scored more than 20 points in each of Hammond's first five playoff games, including 23 in the state semifinal win over Aberdeen.
Kylie Bestul, Arch. Spalding, Senior Forward
Emily Bollinger, Westminster, Sophomore Forward
Nicole Dixon, Woodlawn, Senior Forward
Andrea Dodrill, Bryn Mawr, Sophomore Forward
Courtney Gogolinski, Chesapeake-AA, Junior Guard
Essence Greer, Glen Burnie, Senior Forward
Jasmine Hammond, Centennial, Senior Guard
Karleena Tobin, Friends, Senior Guard
Carly Wasserbach, Catonsville, Junior Forward
Melissa Workman, Hammond, Senior Forward
Note: Teams selected by Katherine Dunn after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches
1. Seton Keough 25-6
2. Archbishop Spalding 24-11
3. Dunbar 26-1
4. St. Frances 18-6
5. Mercy 16-10
6. Mount Hebron 19-5
7. Institute of Notre Dame 17-11
8. Catonsville 21-6
9. River Hill 16-8
10. Bryn Mawr 16-11
11. Hammond 21-7
12. Long Reach 14-9
13. Glenelg 16-6
14. Severna Park 19-6
15. Chesapeake-AA 20-7
16. Parkville 22-2
17. McDonogh 12-8
18. Centennial 16-8
19. Chapelgate 27-5
20. Milford Mill 21-5
Other teams considered: Aberdeen (20-5), Arundel (16-8), St. Mary's (16-11), South River (16-8), Western (17-8), Woodlawn (21-4).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun