Chesapeake's Gray excited about last chance to coach daughter

Bill Wagner
Contact Reporterbwagner@capgaznews.com

Coaching her daughter throughout high school has been a memorable experience for Maria Gray.

Offered an opportunity to do so one more time, the Chesapeake head coach jumped at it. Mikaela Gray will be heading off to college next year and her basketball career will be over so the Apple Valley Waste Senior All-Star Classic provides mother and daughter a last chance to take the court together.

"It's going to be special," Maria Gray said. "It's always bittersweet when girls move on, and that is even more so the case when one of them is your daughter."

Chesapeake will have three seniors in the 29th annual event, scheduled for Wednesday at Meade High. Kara Blanchard and Hallie Persell will also represent the Cougars, who enjoyed the most successful season in program history with a 19-4 record.

"It's great that we're going to get one final goodbye together," Mikaela Gray said. "I'm glad my mom is coaching because she worked really hard to make the program better and this season things really came together. I think she deserves the honor of coaching in the All-Star game."

Coach Gray was a key member of the Brooklyn Park club that captured the Class C state championship in 1986. Known as Maria Beam at the time, she participated in the Anne Arundel County Senior All-Star Classic when it was run by the public school coaches' association.

There was plenty of talent in that year's game as Old Mill (Class AA) and South River (Class A) also garnered state titles in 1986. Three decades later, Gray does not remember much about the game other than the excitement that came with being chosen an All-Star.

"This is a chance for all the seniors to put an exclamation point on their careers," Gray said. "I look at this game as a celebration. There is no pressure so just enjoy the experience, enjoy the camaraderie."

Blanchard experienced the camaraderie of the county girls basketball community first-hand this season after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Glen Burnie helped Chesapeake host MS Awareness Night, showing tremendous support by conducting a joint practice and dinner beforehand.

The Pasadena school produced orange T-shirts with "Cougars for Kara" printed on them. Northeast players wore those shirts during warmups prior to their game with Chesapeake. Severna Park players sported orange shoelaces during their game against Chesapeake and later held a separate fundraiser in honor of Blanchard.

"It was really heartwarming to see so many schools support the cause. It's just a great example of sportsmanship," said Coach Gray, who asked Glen Burnie head coach Kristofer Dean to serve as her assistant for the All-Star Classic.

Blanchard, who plans to play lacrosse at LaSalle, said the whole experience made her look at rival schools a lot differently.

"Northeast is our archrival and it's always our goal to beat Severna Park in every sport. Now there's no reason to dislike either of those schools anymore," Blanchard said with a laugh. "All the support I've received from so many people has been overwhelming and uplifting."

Blanchard will play her final high school basketball game alongside two long-time friends as she, Mikaela Gray and Severn School's Zoe Bennett played together in the Lake Shore youth program.

This year's Senior All-Star Classic will feature a contrast of talent and styles as the North boasts tremendous size while the South will rely on speed.

"I definitely noticed that when I was looking over the two rosters," said Broadneck head coach Gail Davis, who will oversee the South. "I told our players during practice that we can't let them set up in half-court offense or else we're going to get backed down a lot. I'd like to press and run and get some easy baskets in transition."

Davis believes the South has the type of players that can play at a fast pace and force the bigger girls on the North to get up and down the court. She mentioned Kayla Johnson of Annapolis, Autumn Fields of Broadneck and Celeste Davis of Severna Park as point guards adept at pushing the ball

"I think we have a really athletic group that can play up-tempo and really score some points," said Davis, who is excited to make her coaching debut in the Senior All-Star Classic.

CONTINGENCY PLAN: If inclement weather causes Anne Arundel County Public Schools to shut down on Wednesday, the Apple Valley Waste Senior All-Star Classic will be held on Thursday at Meade High.

BOYS ALL-STAR ROSTERS

SOUTH

Damon Gomer, Broadneck

Jaylen Jasper, Broadneck

Aaron McGriff, St. Mary's

Chase Harding, Severna Park

Tison Graves, Southern

Josh Lee, South River

Mike Jackson, Key School

Jairus Carroll, Southern

Will Dion, Annapolis

Trey Gross, Annapolis

Kori Rawlings, AACS

Brandon Joseph, AACS

Christian Thornton, Arundel

Quest Delaney, Arundel

HEAD COACH: Jeff Vincent, South River

NORTH

Dayvon Cuffey, Glen Burnie

Troy Smoot, Glen Burnie

Blake Rebstock, Chesapeake

Syvon Sturdivant, Meade

Jeremy Washington, Meade

Malcolm Moses, Meade

Troy McNeill, Northeast

Jacoby Rojas, Northeast

Zavion Spence, North County

Marcel Jenkins, Old Mill

Terrell Bush, Old Mill

Buzz Anthony, Spalding

Barry McCormick, Spalding

DaVon Beckford, Indian Creek

HEAD COACH: Chris Schrader, North County

GIRLS ALL-STAR ROSTERS

SOUTH

Autumn Fields, Broadneck

Amanda Thornton, Broadneck

Kayla Johnson, Annapolis

Keorra Taylor, Annapolis

Alexis Ward, South River

Kassidy Bresnahan, South River

Molly Folks, South River

Caroline Duffy, Severna Park

Katie DeFeo, Severna Park

Celeste Davis, Severna Park

Kathryn Ryan, Severna Park

Jordan Brady, Southern

Jasmine Facey, Arundel

Sabrina Doherty, Arundel

HEAD COACH: Gail Davis, Broadneck

NORTH

Hallie Persell, Chesapeake

Mikaela Gray, Chesapeake

Kara Blanchard, Chesapeake

Karley Haensler, Glen Burnie

Katelyn Watson, Glen Burnie

Rebecca Lee, Old Mill

Alayshia Dailey, Old Mill

Brandi Hall, Old Mill

Raelyn Muldrow, Meade

Morgan Hamilton, Meade

Tasha'una Martin-Palmer, Meade

Alayshia Florida, North County

Eva Hubbard, Spalding

Zoe Bennett, Severn

HEAD COACH: Maria Gray, Chesapeake

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