Another winter season is in the books, and with it another fresh crop of tomorrow's stars have begun setting the foundation for successful high school careers. The junior varsity level athletes often compete with less fanfare, but their importance to building successful programs is undeniable.
Some of the top players were rewarded with late-season call-ups to varsity, while others must wait at least one more year for their opportunity. Either way, the lessons learned this season will undoubtedly pay dividends going forward.
We contacted each school, through the athletic administrations, and asked for information on their JV teams. Here's what we heard back:
Atholton put together a successful season, compiling a 13-6 county record and a 15-6 record overall.
The team's three sophomore captains, Alex Myers (8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.0 steals a game), Marcellus Rogers (6.8 ppg and 6.4 rpg) and Kane Jackson (6.3 ppg), were the leaders.
There were plenty of other contributors, though, for a team that featured extremely balanced scoring production. "Many freshmen stepped up and played big minutes for us, and we are extremely excited for next year as they transform into the leaders of the team," coach Steve Manning said.
There were lots of exciting games, but a late-season meeting at River Hill stood out for Manning. In overtime, with Atholton down two points in the final seconds, freshman guard Jacob Waterworth (3.1 assists per game) dribbled the length of the court and sank a fade-away 3-pointer as time was expiring to secure the victory for the Raiders.
It was another strong year for Centennial, which finished the season 17-3 in county play (19-3 overall). Among the team's accomplishments was a championship at the Liberty Holiday Tournament, defeating Friendly High School and the host Lions.
Contributions came from many players, including Michael Diaz (18.2 ppg and 11.4 rpg), Elijah White (9.9 ppg) and Michael Merkey (8.7 ppg and 4 apg). Other sophomores like EJ Fowler, John Hohmann and Javon Smith provided leadership, timely rebounding and balanced scoring.
The challenge, according to coach Chris Sanders, was "blending the many new faces with the experienced." Ryan Maher, Noah Taylor, Hudson Graves and Jordan Fields helped spell the guards, while Alex Fant, Ethan Kaminski and Justin Taylor saw time at the forward position.
"The most enjoyment comes from watching players initially struggle with the scheme and system and then to slowly see the evolution into a team," Sanders said.
Among the best victories for the Eagles was a late-season win over Reservoir, 56-44. "We knew from past experience that success in the second half of the season would result from solid and consistent defense and how much players were able to step up and compete," said Sanders. "The second Reservoir game gave us the chance to avenge a loss from the beginning of the season."
With 10 freshmen and only one returning sophomore, there was a lot of learning experiences this season for Glenelg. Still, the Gladiators were able to put together a 12-8 record by the end of the year.
Sophomores Trey Davis (9 ppg) and Phil Saiz (8 ppg) led a very balanced attack on offense. Seven different players led the team in scoring throughout the season.
Freshman Chris Currie was a strong on-ball defender, while Jeffrey Powell helped control the glass (9 rpg). Freshmen Joe Piwowarski (3 apg) and Andrew Thai helped control the game at the point guard position.
In addition, freshmen Hank Koele, Tommy Walsh and Colin Auyeung all played meaningful minutes throughout the season.
"With a lot of close games this year the team hopes to carry on the lessons learned to be more successful in future years," coach Joseph Osborne said.
Howard finished the season strong after a slow start. Over the final 10 games the team went 5-5, improving on a 2-7 start, to finish 7-12 overall.
"We struggled during the first half of the year. Although we returned a few players from the year before, we returned almost no game experience," coach Nils Schroder said. "By the end of the year we were playing really good basketball."
The team won its final two games, defeating Wilde Lake and Atholton.
To go along with the team's late-season improvement was the play of Stephen McNair, Zach Phillips, Oreo Ajayi and Reid Walsh.
"They were all doing all the things asked of them - rebounding, good passing, good shots - and really led the team in the final stretch," Schroder said.
Mt. Hebron used a strong start to carry it to a 7-12 county record (9-13 overall). The Vikings won five of their first eight games, and that set the tone for the rest of the season.
"Many of the games, wins or losses, were decided by only a few points, so the last few minutes of every game had its fair share of excitement," Mt. Hebron coach Kelly Caprarola said. "Every player worked hard to improve throughout the season and it led to our growth as a complete team."
Mt. Hebron was led by sophomores Lance Madden, Michael Carbonetti, Kyle Sutton, Ian Johnson and freshman Johnny Linsenmeyer. Other strong contributions came from Graham Davis, Chris Munko, John Grant, Brooks Pearce, Nathan Johnson, Jake Edmondson and Alex Smith.
Madden, Carbonetti and Linsenmeyer were the team's leading scorers, while Sutton was the leading rebounder throughout the season.
It was a county championship season for Oakland Mills, which finished 17-1 in county play and 19-1 overall. Along the way, the team also won the Springbrook Holiday Tournament.
The Scorpions' leaders throughout the year were sophomore Tre Hopkins and freshman Naquan Williams-Day. Both players averaged over 17 points a game and both were called up to varsity by the end of the season. Williams-Day even averaged eight points a game over seven varsity games.
Other key contributors were sophomores Jordan Crawford, Tyler Smith and Deonte McFAdden, along with freshmen Jordan Hopkins, Evan Riss, Ricky Rondon and Jaelen Estep. Each of those seven players scored in double figures at least once during the season.
"I have been doing this for 17 years, including winning a state title as an assistant coach and reaching the state finals as a head coach, and this easily was one of my favorite teams I have ever coached," coach Michael Salapata said. "It's not too often when a coach has a team of players that are really good kids first. Then combine that with their ability, effort and willingness to learn, and you have a team that you will reference back and compare future teams to."
Among the season highlights, according to Salapata, were defeating Springbrook in the championship game of the Holiday tournament and then the final game of the season against Centennial where the team won to secure the county's best JV record.
"Watching the kids win that game and celebrate their accomplishments was something that they deserved," Salapata said.
Reservoir put together a very strong 16-2 record while averaging over 62 points a game.
As a team, the Gators were led by Andrew Phillips (13.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg), Johvon Garcia (13.1 ppg and 2.5 rpg) and captain German Garcia (12 ppg and 2.5 rpg).
Other strong contributors were Matt Winters (8 ppg and 5.3 rpg) before he was sidelined with a broken hand, along with Kevin Miller (5.3 ppg) and Callan Wieth.
Zibril Carey, Uwalia Omorogbe, Kevy Minor, Aiden Henry, Kyle Fehr and Chauncey Usher all had their moments in the spotlight as well.
"This was a close-knit group. They were like a family and were one of the best teams I've coached in my four years here," coach Owen Gaither said.
Among the season highlights was one string of 12 straight victories, and also handing Oakland Mills its first and only loss of the season.
Wilde Lake finished 9-10 in county play and 9-11 overall. The team's leading scorer was Kyle Ichrist, who averaged 15.6 points per game. Point guard Austin Cantwell was right behind him with 13.4 points a night. Both players were moved up to the varsity team by the end of the regular season.
There were plenty of other standout performers, though. Demetrious Johnson and Tyrell Barnes were both forces in the rebounding department and also set the tone defensively with their intensity. Baimba Stubblefield was an all-around player that played with toughness on both ends of the court, and did a lot of the little things that make a difference.
Coach Pete Bergin said the highlight of the team's season was their effort in a win over Long Reach.
"They played excellent team basketball. With tenacious team defense and selfless sharing of the ball on offense, the Wildecats beat the talented Lightning," Bergin said.
With the varsity program having one of its most successful years in recent memory, Atholton's JV team was able to finish strong as well. With an 11-8 record, the Raiders defeated every opponent at least once, with the exception of Howard.
Sophia Harrison led coach Lisa Daciek's squad averaging 7.7 points per game, followed closely by Meaghan Quinn (6.2) and Nerissa Anderson (5.5). Jetta Owens was the team's leading rebounder.
The Raiders notched standout wins against Glenelg (overtime), Marriotts Ridge and Centennial – which Daciek referred to as "by far our best performance as a team."
The Centennial Eagles "enjoyed its most successful (season) in three years," said coach Sean LeBeau, whose Eagles finished with a record of 13-6 county, 13-7 overall.
Centennial's early losses to Atholton and Mt. Hebron fueled the girls to finish strong, according to LeBeau. The Eagles collected big season sweeps against the likes of Reservoir and River Hill.
LeBeau highlighted breakout performances of several sophomores, including Jesse Dunagan – who led the team in steals and assists – as well as Alana Morgante and Kewa Gray, both of whom led in scoring. Peyton Conley and Jasmine McCree (freshman) led the team in blocks.
The team's "Sixth Man Award" went to freshman Isabella Cline, who "often came in to give the Lady Eagles the spark they needed to be so successful," according to LeBeau, who added that he's excited about the returning talent to the squad.
Glenelg returned only two players from last year's roster in captains Caroline Esmond and Katie Twigg. This season, coach Larry Butera started five freshmen in 11 of 21 games. Still, the team finished with an overall record of 16-5, despite having its top scorer and rebounder, Grace Butera (11.2 ppg, 9 rpg), elevated to the varsity level after just 10 games.
Throughout the season, Glenelg was constantly playing in close contests. One-point losses to Howard (twice) and Atholton contributed to what was the overall theme of the season. The aggregated point margin in the team's five losses was 11 points, according to the coach.
Following Grace Butera's departure, Bernice Hanlon went on to lead the team in scoring at 8.5 points per game. She also averaged 7.8 boards per contest. The team's most valuable player, according to Larry Butera, was Courtney Renehan, who averaged 28 minutes, six steals and five assists per game.
Freshmen Bethany Arrington and Gabby Rachuba played at a high level as well. In the team's final five games, Arrington averaged a team-high 9.2 ppg. The coach also commended the play of 6-foot-1 center Erin Cutroneo, who averaged eight boards in the team's final six games.
The team's reserve unit of Alayna Pagnotta, Paige Sheldrake, Becky Bowman, Shea Walsh and Ally Noyes also provided the Gladiators with a spark off the bench.
Nine returning players were a major reason why Howard's JV (19-0, 20-0) imitated the school's varsity program this season by finishing at the top of the county standings. Coach James Stewart said his players developed an immediate bond with one another to "work hard in practice and play harder in games as they developed their fundamental basketball skills.
"The hard work that the team put in throughout the season was evident in the winning record," the coach added. "There were many games where they could have given up and their record would have been different. They are a team that never gave up and never lost faith in each other.."
Freshman Samantha Sagi averaged 8.1 points and 9 rebounds per game, while sophomores Ella Orzechowski (8.1 ppg), Adeola Abdulkadir (7.2 points and 5 steals per game), Amy Bruner (5 points and 7 rebounds per game) and Natalie White (3.7 points and 6 assists per game) all made positive impacts to the team's successful season.
Finishing with a record of 15-5, 16-6, Mt. Hebron was another team that finished in the upper tier of the county standings this season.
Sophomores Jillian Kumar (leader in points and steals), Hannah Arnold (leader in offensive and defensive rebounds, and blocked shots) and Sorana Larson (leader in 3-pointers) all provided the Vikings with solid performances throughout the season. Rachel Cadigan and Kaylee Toth also played key roles as well.
"We also had a very strong freshman class that not only improved greatly throughout the season, but also helped in our total team depth," said coach Dennis Kelliher. "We look forward to great things next year from these talented young ladies."
Though Oakland Mills finished with just a 1-17, 2-17 record, coach Brittany Coughlan said her team still achieved many of its goals from the start of the year.
Sophomore Ny'Jayha Lockwood averaged 17.7 points, 13.4 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 2.4 blocks per game, leading her team in all categories. In the team's lone county win against Hammond, Lockwood notched a triple-double effort with a career-high 43 points, 20 rebounds and 10 steals.
Freshman Cire Nicholson also provided her Oakland Mills teammates with solid production. Her 9.4 ppg, 2 rpg and 1.7 spg gave the Scorpions a nice one-two punch.
"We were a young and very inexperienced team," Coughlan said. "Basketball was new to eight out of the 11 players this year."
The freshman-dominated team "made great strides throughout the year," the coach added.
Reservoir finished 4-14 this season – which coach James R. Mackin said featured a young team that developed immensely from the start.
"Defense and effort were consistent all season long, and the execution of the offense progressed each game," he said.
Kayla Wilson led her squad with 10 points per game, followed by Amaka Chukwujekw (8 ppg), Cassidy Pham (4.2) and Greta Schuster (2.7). Chukwujekw also led her squad in rebounds blocks and steals.
Mackin said one of the season highlights was Kayla Wilson's 21-point performance against River Hill.
This season was another season of growth for Atholton, but the program is definitely stronger now than at the beginning of the winter. The Raiders are still thin in the upperweights, but that was partly due to the promotion of several promising JV wrestlers up to varsity. Keyser Ehrhardt finished the season with a record of 12-6. Jamarye Jones started the season 8-0 on JV, quickly earning a call-up to varsity, where he was able to add several more victories.
Several first-year wrestlers that did an awesome job of growing and becoming more aggressive and technical would be Joe Lazzari, Jair Sinisterra, Mark Bailey, Toni Bement, Alec Abbate and Brendan Rocco.
"This group of kids showed a lot of improvement as the year went on, and will do a great job for us next year," coach Sidney Billups said.
Centennial had a strong season, finishing with a record of 7-7. The team produced two finalists in the JV County championships in Mark Horton and Niall Musonda, one champion in the Atholton JV tournament — Ammar Narmouq — and promoted four wrestlers to varsity: Cameron Neilon (third place county, Atholton finalist, Rookie of the Year, 19-10 record) Ammar Narmouq, Amro Narmouq and Antonio Griggs.
The team was coached by Ron Fletcher, who won a state title for Centennial in the 80s, alongside teammate and current varsity coach Cliff Kraisser. Assistant coaches Doug Carpenter (Atholton) and Tommy Vigliotti (Mt. Hebron) also wrestled for Howard County schools.
Howard continued to work hard after the end of last season, and the Lions' hard work showed on the mat this season. In the first event of the year, the Atholton JV Tournament, Howard showed much improvement from the year before when only one wrestler finished on the podium. Howard's Drew LaPointe (170), Ben Massey (182) and James Coyne (126) all placed third, while Daniel Lee (170), Jeffery Hao (152), Jonathan Rosales (182) and Joe Keagle (145) all made the finals. Keagle, Hao and Lee left the tournament as champions.
The Lions' success continued throughout the season, and they finished with an overall record of 7-4 in the county and 9-4 overall.
A few of Howard's standout wrestlers were senior Drew Lapointe (160), sophomore Ben Massey (170), junior Joe Keagle (152) and senior Jeffrey Hao (152). Keagle won 12 matches this season, seven by pin, and took third at the Future Champions tournament and fourth at the Howard County JV Championships. Both Hao and Massey finished the season with 13 wins. Massey was a finalist at the Future Champions tournament, while Hao led the team with 32 takedowns. Drew Lapointe led the Lions with 16 victories and eight falls, took third place at the Future Champions tournament, and won the Howard County JV championship.
JV County Championships (Feb. 22 at River Hill)
106: 1. Cole Mihalik (RH); 2. Jacob Hejeebu (MR); 3. Mike Olson (MH); 4. Cameron Neilon (C); 5. Michael Yacynych (MH); 6. Logan Roylo (A).
Championship match: Cole Mihalik (RH) dec. Jacob Hejeebu (MR), 9-6.