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Rec Sports Spotlight: Mid Atlantic Legacy teams take tournament titles

Mid Atlantic Legacy 2024 team. Front row: Ryleigh Lanza, Evangeline Hall, Summer Brooks, McKenna Lanza, Abby Rieger, coach Tim Whitehead. Back row: Coach Doug Reaves, Emma Reaves, Julianna Lesher, Gillian Blubaugh, Samantha Smith, Abby Redman, Caroline Kohr, coach Scott Kohr.
Mid Atlantic Legacy 2024 team. Front row: Ryleigh Lanza, Evangeline Hall, Summer Brooks, McKenna Lanza, Abby Rieger, coach Tim Whitehead. Back row: Coach Doug Reaves, Emma Reaves, Julianna Lesher, Gillian Blubaugh, Samantha Smith, Abby Redman, Caroline Kohr, coach Scott Kohr. (Courtesy photo)

Two Mid Atlantic Legacy AAU club girls basketball teams have won seven of their first eight tournament games this season, and, two weekends ago, both won championships.

And the person most pleasantly surprised at their successes may be their own coach, Tim Whitehead.

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Neither team's prospects seemed so good when things began last fall. But those prospects have dramatically improved.

The Westminster-based club's eighth-grade team had lost a lot of players from the year before, and its coach had to find good ones in a hurry. Then he had to train them and make sure they fit in with their team. And, he had to train the team to make sure it was a team and could compete against rugged competition it would face on the AAU tournament circuit.

"The eighth grade team was thin, and we had to do a lot of recruiting in Carroll and Baltimore counties," he recalled. Eventually he picked up three new players to go with his six returners.

And they fit together like hand in glove.

"They meshed so well, I couldn't be more pleased with them. They got along well and played as a team," he said.

The fifth/sixth grade team, which was starting from scratch, was looking even worse in the beginning. Only three girls even showed up for the team's first tryout last October. Then a few more started drifting in from various other programs and teams until there were eight.

"Then we held camp after camp after camp and drilled fundamentals into them," Whitehead said.

This younger group also meshed into a quality team, finishing second to a team from Howard County in the Carroll County Travel League and reaching the postseason tournament championship game.

Each Legacy squad won three of four games in their first tournament, at McDonogh School, the first week of March.

The following week, they headed to Martinsburg, West Virginia, for the 2018 BB&T Quad State Classic. Their coach wasn't sure how well they would do there, although he was hopeful.

The eighth-graders got an easy win in the tourney's first round.

The defense and rebounding were on key in the first game as the eighth-graders stifled Potomac 26-6. Savannah Brooks scored nine points and Faith Rill, seven. Emma Wallace and Emily Kowalski each added four. Allison Louque and Brooks were strong on the board for the winners.

Game two was an entirely different story as Legacy had to score in the closing seconds to pull out a 42-41 squeaker over Keyser, West Virginia.

Keyser opened an early lead by bombing away from outside. It hit six consecutive 3-point baskets at one point. However, Legacy fought back to close the gap to a point with time running out. With six seconds left in the game, Kirsten Whitehead stole the ball, and passed to Brooks who made a layup for the winning points.

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Brooks had a big game, scoring 19 points. Kowalski and Whitehead each had seven. Emma Carpenter and Louque had strong defensive games for the winners and paced their rebounding.

The semifinal saw more final moment heroics. Tied 25-all with Petersburg, Virginia., the locals pulled it out when Louque stole an outlet pass with less than 10 seconds left and hit the winning shot. That 27-25 win put Legacy in the finals.

That final was a rematch with Keyser, only it wasn't much of a rematch. The locals bombed the West Virginia team 36-20 in what its coach considered the team's best game of the tournament.

"We saved the best game for last. The defense clicked with our press, the offense clicked with crisp passing, and Delanie Smothers' shooting the 'three,'" he wrote.

Smothers and Brooks each scored 11 points to pace the offense, and Kirsten Whitehead added six. Louque provided strong rebounding. Emma Watson and Abby Alleman paced an effective pressing defense in the championship game.

The fifth/sixth graders also swept their four tournament games. They opened by topping the Pa. Thunder II, 29-20.

Legacy's Julianna Lesher had a game-high 19 points, and Caroline Kohr supported with six. Abby Redman provided good rebounding. McKenna Lanza and Evangeline Hall played tough defensive games.

Legacy used a smothering defense to win the second game easily, 33-6 over Freeport, Pennsylvania. Lesher and Samantha Smith led the scorers with eight points apiece; Summer Brooks and Hall each added six. Redman and Smith dominated the rebounding for the winners.

The semifinal was another lopsided win, 28-11 over the Lady Warriors (Md.). Lesher led with 11 points; Brooks and Abby Rieger each had six. Kohr and Emma Reaves handled most of the rebounding. Already missing injured post player Gillian Blubaugh, Rieger was hurt in the game's closing minutes when she was knocked down and a tooth cut through her lip.

However, the young point guard would play in the championship game — and turn in a good performance, too.

Legacy took that championship match, 30-17 over Pa. Thunder I.

Brooks led with 13 points despite picking up three fouls in the first two minutes of the game. Rieger added seven, had numerous steals and played relentless defense despite her injury. Reaves had a big game on the boards for the winners and Kohr thwarted the Thunder's press with sharp ball handling.

Whitehead credited the team's speed and scrap for their wins.

"They have speed, and they play defense. We are a pressing team that is usually smaller than those we play. But we are physical, get good position and rebound well," Whitehead said.

As for the older team, it was a matter of being just plain all-around good.

"We have good balance on offense, defense and rebounding," he said.

Whitehead added that the older team had formerly depended on a few players. But this tournament season, so far, everybody's contributing.

However, the season's just beginning, and there is a long way to go before the AAU season ends in July. The teams will play numerous tournaments throughout the Mid-Atlantic states against top-quality opponents.

Not wanting to make predictions, Whitehead said: "We'll see how the tournament season goes, but I think they can handle it."

Right now, it's looking good.

Mid Atlantic Legacy's 2022 team. Front row: Faith Rill, Kirsten Whitehead, Emma Wallace, Abby Alleman. Back row: Delanie Smothers, Emily Kowalski, Savannah Brooks, Allison Louque, Emma Carpenter and coach Tim Whitehead.
Mid Atlantic Legacy's 2022 team. Front row: Faith Rill, Kirsten Whitehead, Emma Wallace, Abby Alleman. Back row: Delanie Smothers, Emily Kowalski, Savannah Brooks, Allison Louque, Emma Carpenter and coach Tim Whitehead. (Courtesy photo)


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