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The Westminster Stars completed an unbeaten run through the regular season and postseason tournament. Team members included, (back row, from left) Maycee Hill, Summer Brooks, Sam Smith, Kiara Hardy; (front Row) Gaby McCarthy, Maddy Gassman, MacKenzie O'Conner, Abby Kinloch, Bree Witter, Andie Hull.
The Westminster Stars completed an unbeaten run through the regular season and postseason tournament. Team members included, (back row, from left) Maycee Hill, Summer Brooks, Sam Smith, Kiara Hardy; (front Row) Gaby McCarthy, Maddy Gassman, MacKenzie O'Conner, Abby Kinloch, Bree Witter, Andie Hull. (Submitted photo)

Stephanie McCarthy had a nice turnout of around 40 girls last October for her Westminster Stars fourth grade travel basketball team. She kept 10 of them.

It seems she and her assistant coaches, Scott McCarthy and Dustin Hill, kept the right 10. The only games these kids ever lost all year were to the snow. They were 8-0 in the regular season with two postponements in the Carroll County Girls Travel Basketball League.

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Then in early March, they capped things off by sweeping two games to win the fourth grade division's postseason championship tournament.

McCarthy had three fifth-graders, six fourth-graders, and a third grader. However the Stars weren't a big team even with the fifth graders. Plus, those older girls had never played travel basketball. The coach generally rotated the taller fifth-graders in up front and went with three guards most of the time.

That lineup pretty much dictated the kind of defense and offense the team played. Both depended on pressure and speed.

"The strongest thing was our defense. We had good pressure and scored a lot of points on turnovers. It set up our fast break, open shots and things like that," McCarthy said.

"We were good on the fast break. The girls were really unselfish. If they saw a girl up ahead of them,they passed it up ahead."

The three guards who carried much of the load were Gaby McCarthy, Maycee Hill, and Kiara Hardy. Their coach says the three played at a level well beyond their years, in fact, "I think our guard play could take on sixth graders and beat them."

However, they had to get the ball before they can fast break with it. And the girls up front made sure that happened. Forwards Sam Smith and Abby Kinloch along with center Andie Hull keyed that fast break with their rebounding.

"Andie was probably our most consistent player after the first few games. She did a 180 after the early going," McCarthy said.

Summer Brooks and Bree Witter were very versatile contributors.

"Both of these girls could play small forward and also guard because both are good ball handlers. Both have good baseline jump shoots," McCarthy said.

Maddie Gassman contributed in her own way.

"About halfway through the season, she became one of our leaders in steals, and that led to a lot of fast break points," the coach said.

MacKenzie O'Conner was probably the smallest girl on the team, but she nevertheless won a lot of jump balls. She played a strong defense and was also got her share of steals, McCarthy said.

Westminster drew a first round bye in the postseason tournament because of its first place finish in the regular season. But the layoff didn't hurt it a bit. On March 4, it topped Freedom 16-1 as five players scored. Hardy and Hull paced the attack with six and four points, respectively.

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Later that afternoon, the Stars nailed down the championship at East Middle School by doubling the score on North Carroll 22-11. They led 10-4 at halftime.

Gaby McCarthy had eight points, Hill, six and Hull, four to pace another balanced Stars' attack in which six players scored.

This was the second championship in McCarthy's 10 year youth basketball coaching career. She won her first one some years ago when she coached her older daughter Lexi's team.

This year's title, however, was something special.

"I have coached 10 seasons, but I have never had an undefeated team. These girls are very special to me. I am very proud of them," McCarthy said.*

She noted that the players also worked hard off the court.

"Parents sent me videos of their girls practicing their dribbling. If it rained, they practiced in the basement or the garage," the coach said.

McCarthy also coaches a fourth grade spring AAU team. Four of the girls on the Stars played for her Hoopmasters squad last year. However, the Stars players were so good in the Carroll County League that she is taking nine of them for this spring's Hoopmasters.

They opened their AAU season this weekend with a tournament at Catholic University.

"I told them this will be faster and tougher ball than they are used to. But I also told them that is how you get better," McCarthy said.

"I think they will win some games, but they will be challenged.

Once they get used to the speed and physicality [in AAU games], they will be OK."

After this past season's performance, that might be a good bet.

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