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Rec Sports Spotlight: Mid-Atlantic Legacy on a roll

The Mid-Atlantic Legacy travel basketball program's seventh-grade girls team began play last March. But it has already establishing, one might say, a winning legacy.

Those Carroll County girls started their roll by going unbeaten to win the Howard County Youth Program's fall basketball league. They won three more in Westminster's Turkey on the Hill Mixer in late November.

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Then in late December, they got their winter basketball season off in spectacular style at McDaniel College by sweeping four games to win the Holiday on the Hill Tournament's seventh-grade girls championship. Since then it has been winning big in two travel basketball leagues.

Mid-Atlantic has won 24 of its 27 games since September.

The newly-organized Tim Whitehead-coached girls squad began competition last spring in a very rough arena.

"We played in AAU tournaments from late March into October. We struggled a bit because we hadn't jelled, and we finished a little under .500," Whitehead recounted.

Sometimes they played older teams in AAU, and the results weren't always good. Whitehead though, stressed to the girls that they needed to do their best. He reminded them that they would also play older girls when they were high school freshmen and sophomores.

Despite their mediocre record, Whitehead said that, "this was a good experience for them."

He said that the Howard County girls league, where they played seventh graders, was easier than AAU.

"Things were slower, and the girls just clicked. Instead of having to think about running an offense or a press, they just did it," he said.

After winning the Howard title, they went to Thanksgiving's Turkey on the Hill tournament, also held at McDaniel.

There, they were matched against eighth-graders.

"That was a real question mark. I didn't know how well we'd do. We also had four new girls from Taneytown, and I didn't know how we'd jell," Whitehead said.

However his girls jelled fine and went 3-0. He says that, at that point, he realized that he had a good team.

He would become even more convinced as 2016 drew to a close. Whitehead expected Freedom to be the tough nut in the Holiday on the Hill Tournament, and he was proven right.

In his opening game, Freedom shot to a 15-3 halftime lead with Brooke Boyer scoring Legacy's only basket. But Legacy put on the press in the second half.

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Guards Kirsten Whitehead, Abby Alleman, Laela Martinez and Taylor Speigle, rotating in and out, harassed Freedom into numerous turnovers that lead to easy Legacy baskets.

Legacy went ahead 27-25 late in the game. However, it had to survive a turnover and a last-ditch 3-point attempt by Freedom to hang on by that score.

Whitehead led the Legacy scoring with 11 points, Savannah Brooks had seven and Martinez five. Allison Loque and Libbey Kiley led in rebounds.

The Legacy squad won the second game, 24-12 over the West Howard County Force. Whitehead related that his team's strong defense overcame sloppy play by the offense. Kiley and Brooks led the scoring with eight and six points.

Game three was another easy one, a 40-18 win over Towsontowne.

Delanie Smothers paced Mid-Atlantic with 11 points, and Kiley had 10. Emily Kowalski led the winners in rebounding. Hannah Boyer and Speigle paced Legacy's pressing defense in steals.

The final game was a re-match against Freedom. And like the opener, the rematch went down to the wire.

Legacy got off to a much better start though. Brooke Boyer scored four quick points to open the game. Her team led 17-16 at halftime.

"I told them they were winning 1-0. If we played just as well, we'd win 2-0," Whitehead said.

Looking back, that's exactly what happened.

He needed his bench because starters Kirsten Whitehead and Brooks were also playing for Legacy's eighth grade squad which would eventually finish second in its bracket. The pair needed extra rest, and the girls on the seventh grade bench stepped in provide it.

Filling in, Smothers contributed five points in the second half. Kowalski had two points and two rebounds in some key situations. Boyer played strong defense during her time on court by getting two steals in five minutes.

However Freedom had the ball in a 32-32 game with 13 seconds remaining. Then Louque stole the ball for Legacy with six seconds left.

On an in-bounds play, Martinez hit an 18-foot baseline jumper for Legacy as time ran out to win it 34-32. She led her team in scoring in that final game with 11 points.

"Everyone jumped off the bench when they saw the shot went in and they all started to hug each other. It all happened so fast , I don't think we knew how to react," Whitehead wrote.

The team's good fortune has continued since. It is 2-0 in the Carroll County Girls Basketball League and 3-1 in the Columbia Ravens League.

"Our numbers are good. We don't have a big team, but we have a lot of depth. We can put anybody in, any time, and they can compete with the starters on other teams. We also have good athleticism. We can handle the ball well and press. Our game is based on pressure, turnovers and rebounding," Whitehead said.

He believes the winning can continue even though his girls have been together but a little while.

"We'll need some luck. We'll need to keep developing because we're still a young team. But we haven't hit our peak yet. If we can continue to develop, we can play anybody on the court," Whitehead said.

410-857-7896

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