Marah Strickland Towson Catholic, junior
The gifted junior transferred from St. John's at Prospect Hall and promptly led the Owls to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference regular-season championship - their best finish in 21 years.
A 6-foot guard with an impressive jump shot, Strickland averaged 23.2 points and shot 40.2 percent from three-point range in leading the No. 4 Owls to a 22-5 season against the area's toughest schedule.
A Street & Smith's honorable mention All-American in 2004 and 2005, she was rated one of the nation's top 10 sophomore guards last season by USA Today. She sure lived up to that billing.
"The couple times we played her, we came away thinking we played a good defensive game, and then you see she's got 24," Roland Park coach Scott Buckley said. "Her game from 15-to-18 feet is really impressive. She doesn't have to get to the rim for a layup, because she can hurt you from the perimeter. She has an unbelievable jump shot and she has the size, so she's a tough cover."
Strickland could do a little bit of everything for the Owls, but she proved toughest near the three-point line. She could drive by an opponent, but more often faked the drive and pulled up for a smooth jumper.
A humble, unselfish player, Strickland blended well into an already strong Towson Catholic squad, as they lost only one A Conference game during the regular season and reached the tournament semifinal, falling in an upset to No. 2 Seton Keough.
"She sees the floor very well and she can create for others," Owls coach Matt Fisher said. "Marah can pretty much do it all."
Among the colleges she's considering: Maryland, Georgia, Virginia, Stanford and Vanderbilt.
Coach of the Year
Teresa Waters River Hill
In her 25th year of coaching in Howard County, Waters brought the Hawks back from last year's devastating state semifinal loss to win the Class 3A state crown and finish 28-0.
The No. 3 Hawks were not favored to win the state title this season as they had been a year ago, but that did not matter to Waters and her players. They came into the tournament ranked No. 8 but polished off then-No. 4 Western, 51-46, in the title game.
"We had one true basketball player [All-Metro guard Keisha Eaddy] and four overachievers," said Waters, also the 1999-2000 All-Metro Coach of the Year.
"It was a total team effort. We graduated five seniors and one of them was a 6-foot-4 four kid [Brittany Gordon] who was hard to replace. Everybody felt like they played a part. Everybody accepted their role and did it to the best of their ability."
While Eaddy, who is headed to Temple, led the team in most statistical categories, she always played within the team and meshed perfectly with her fellow starters, Cari Haas, Kelsey Erdman, Meg Sims and Allison Geoghan.
Waters used a fist to symbolize her team philosophy, something she adopted from a book by Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"The fist is an indication of the unity among the five players on the court at any given time. It's one fist made up of five fingers. With all five fingers working in accord, it's amazing what can be accomplished," Waters said.
Waters, who spent 17 years at Oakland Mills before moving to River Hill in 1998, has a 329-235 career coaching record. She has gone 170-28 with six county titles in eight years with the Hawks.
Zhondria Benn Western, senior
The Baltimore City Player of the Year could dominate the post like no other player. A 6-foot-2 forward who also played away from the basket and had good range on her jump shot, Benn averaged 15.2 points and 11.4 rebounds in leading the No. 5 Doves to the city championship and the state Class 3A final. In her four years, Benn scored 1,335 points and grabbed 1,325 rebounds. She signed early with Georgetown.
Mariame Djouara St. Timothy's, senior
A C Conference player with A Conference talent, Djouara averaged 17.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 5.3 steals and 3.8 assists in leading St. Timothy's to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference final. Lightning quick and able to out-jump 6-footers, the 5-7 senior swing player was at home in the paint or in the backcourt, and could provide just about anything St. Timothy's needed. A native of the Ivory Coast and former member of her county's elite national team, Djouara averaged 17.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.7 steals and 3.9 assists in two years at St. Timothy's. She is undecided about college.
Keisha Eaddy River Hill, sophomore
A repeat All-Metro first-team player, Eaddy led the No. 3 Hawks to their first state championship and a 28-0 season. The 5-6 senior guard had 20 points and six steals in 51-46, Class 3A state-title upset of then-No. 4 Western. Smart and quick in the backcourt, Eaddy created a lot of offense with her defense, averaging 22.4 points per game. She also contributed 5.6 rebounds, seven steals and four assists. A two-time Howard County Player of the Year, she is the Hawks' all-time leading scorer, with 1,680 points, as well as the career leader in assists (380) and steals (646). Eaddy signed early to play next year at Temple.
Mi-Khida Hankins St. Frances, junior
The top player on the No. 1 team, Hankins averaged 18 points and nine rebounds in leading the Panthers to their fourth straight IAAM A Conference championship. A repeat first-team selection, the 6-1 junior forward combined a strong inside game with a strong will to win. Maturing into a team leader, she led a talented but young Panthers team that was ranked as high as No. 24 nationally midway through the season. Hankins' confidence and versatility made her one of the area's most consistent players throughout the season. Offensively and defensively, she gave opponents big and small trouble with her deceptive strength in the post and her quick first step. She also showed off a smooth mid-range jumper.
Sheree Ledbetter Southside, junior
A second-team All-Metro selection last season, Ledbetter continued to give opponents matchup problems with her athleticism and versatility. A swing player who could post up most opponents or take them off the dribble, the 6-foot junior averaged 20 points, 14 rebounds, 4.2 steals, four assists and 2.5 blocks per game. She showed three-point range on her jump shot and led the No. 8 Jaguars in rebounding. Ledbetter has led the Jaguars to the Class 1A state final in each of her three years. In this year's state semifinals, she scored 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in a 50-45 win over New Town. She had 12 points and 14 rebounds in the title-game loss to Catoctin. With a year still to go, Ledbetter has scored 1,121 career points and grabbed 745 rebounds.
Brittany Mallory McDonogh, junior
It's hard to find a weakness in Mallory's game. A big scorer with a top-notch defensive game, the 5-10 junior guard turned a lot of steals into points, averaging 19.1 points per game. She could battle with the strongest post players on the boards and came away with 6.2 rebounds per game. She also averaged 3.8 assists and 3.5 steals. A repeat first-team selection, Mallory had one of her best games against No. 1 St. Frances, scoring 35 points in a 72-61 regular-season overtime loss. In the IAAM A Conference semifinal loss to the Panthers, she managed 19 points on a sprained ankle. In three years, Mallory has scored 1,356 points. She already has orally committed to Notre Dame.
Darryll Peterson Bryn Mawr, senior
When two teammates were lost for the season with injuries, the 6-foot senior guard stepped up and carried a huge load at both ends of the court. Not only did Peterson average 19.9 points and 9.5 rebounds, she also defended the opposition's top post or wing player. In her final three games, she scored 25, 28 and 29 points, as the Mawrtians reached the quarterfinals of the tough IAAM A Conference and finished 11-14 after starting off 1-6. Peterson's size and quickness gave opponents trouble. She could outmaneuver most defenders and scored a lot of points on layups despite drawing much defensive attention. Peterson, who signed early with SUNY-Binghamton, closed out her career with 1,252 points -- second on the Mawrtians' all-time list behind 2004 All-Metro center Andrea Dodrill's 1,340.
John'a Poole Eastern Tech, senior
For two straight years, the 5-8 forward-guard has led the metro area in scoring. This season, she averaged 24.5 points with a versatile offensive game that morphed into whatever the Mavericks (19-4) needed against any given opponent. Poole could play anywhere on the court, beating opponents with her three-point shot or her powerful moves to the basket. Also a solid defender, she converted a lot of steals into points. She averaged 11.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists as she led the Mavericks to the Class 2A North regional final. Over four years, she averaged nearly a double double, with 17.6 points and 9.9 rebounds. She totaled 1,726 points, second on the Mavericks' all-time scoring list, as well as 970 rebounds. Poole signed last month with Wagner.
B.J. Williams Seton Keough, sophomore
Opponents simply could not pressure the No. 2 Gators with their point guard on the floor. The area's best ball-handler could beat any press with ease. Although only a sophomore, Williams had the ball stolen from her just six times all season. She averaged only 2.3 turnovers per game, while dishing out 4.1 assists. She also had 2.3 steals. Her value to the Gators was never more apparent than in three games against Towson Catholic. Seton Keough won twice, but when she became too ill to play in the second half of the other game, the Gators blew a 15-point halftime lead and lost. Williams averaged 8.5 points per game, and usually came through at critical moments. She scored seven in the final five minutes of a 49-44, regular-season win over McDonogh.
Peju Awodipe, New Town, junior guard
Allie Drechsler, Winters Mill, senior guard
Victoria Green, Walbrook, senior guard
Brittany Kalkstein, Roland Park, senior guard
Akeema Richards, Western, freshman guard
Dawnae Roberts, St. Frances, junior guard
Julie Taylor, Atholton, junior guard
Tracy Johns, Towson Catholic, junior forward
Haliena Snowden, Seton Keough, senior forward
Kristie Watkins, Old Mill, senior forward
Note // Teams selected by Katherine Dunn after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.