For all the gaudy stats she compiled this past winter, perhaps the most impressive part of Satori Valentine’s senior basketball season was that she nearly decided not to play at all.
While Valentine’s prowess as a basketball player was proven after All-County selections in each of her first three seasons playing for Mount Hebron, she signed her National Letter of Intent last fall to run track at Towson University. She had just completed an excellent outdoor season for the Vikings and was named the Howard County outdoor track Runner of the Year.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Valentine, but since she had committed to run at Towson, she wondered if she should run indoor track instead of playing basketball.
“It was a difficult choice,” she said. “Honestly it was close to 50%. I was really debating about whether I would return.”
Ultimately she made the decision to finish the basketball journey she started back when she was 8 years old and, in hindsight, Valentine said she made the right choice — and for good reason. Valentine carried Mount Hebron and was top three in the county in almost every statistical category en route to being named the 2019-20 Howard County girls basketball Player of the Year.
“I definitely considered it, and I did talk to my parents about using the winter season to prepare for my outdoor season,” Valentine said. “But my parents convinced me, and my dad was especially motivational when it came to not wanting to have to wonder what it could’ve been and giving it all for my last high school season. I felt like I had unfinished business, and I owed those girls one more season.”
Mount Hebron coach Tierney Ahearn, who took over the Vikings girls basketball program when Valentine was a junior, said she knew there was a possibility that her star player wouldn’t play.
“I was so nervous that I was going to get that call,” Ahearn said. “Thank god she decided to play. I’m so thankful she did, because just think about how many kids she’s made better. She doesn’t just make her teammates better, she makes the opposing team’s players better, too.”
Valentine was voted by the coaches for the top award due to her balanced style of play. The point guard was third in the county in scoring at 20.7 points per game on 51% shooting, in addition to being one of the league’s top defenders. She was also first in the county in assists (5.6 per game), second in steals (4.4) and third in rebounding (9.7). She tallied 10 double-doubles, one triple-double and one quadruple-double during the season.
“Her impact was so big, and she was able to do it because of pure athleticism and heart,” Ahearn said. “Even in the games she didn’t score a lot of points, and there weren’t many, she was the best player on the floor. She really dominated the county across the statistical categories, but I don’t need the stats to know that. It was so much fun for two years to watch her dominate games every night.”
Valentine said the amount of talented players in the county makes winning the award mean more to her. The county was top heavy this season with a handful of other seniors who had impressive seasons. Four seniors scored their 1,000th career point this season — Valentine, Reservoir’s Tiffany Hooker, River Hill’s Saniha Jackson and Oakland Mills’ Jazmine Washington. Two other players — River Hill’s Kennedy Clark and Wilde Lake’s Kalani Corkeron — came less than 15 points away from the milestone, while undefeated Howard was led by a trio of seniors — Anii Harris, Marisa Sanchez-Henry and Camille Malagar.
“I was overwhelmed when I found out and really grateful especially since there are so many talented and phenomenal players in the league this season,” Valentine said.
With the award, Valentine accomplishes the rare feat of winning the top honor in multiple sports. As a junior last spring, Valentine won three gold medals at states en route to being named the outdoor track and field Athlete of the Year.
She’s been selected to seven All-County teams — two outdoor track first-teams, one girls basketball second-team, two basketball first-teams and the two Athlete of the Year awards.
“Tori’s offensive game really excelled from the 3-point line and in,” Ahearn said. “Without that first step and quickness, she doesn’t have the impact with that speed and quickness that she has improved with track. I can see the value of what a good track coach can do for an athlete, so (Mount Hebron track coach) Teyarnte Carter definitely helped her as a basketball player.”
“Track has definitely given me an edge in terms of speed,” Valentine said on how running track helps her as a basketball player. “The mechanics of track have helped me with my running, and those are the little things I can apply to get to loose balls. It also gives me an endurance that allows me to play the whole game, which was definitely helpful this season.”
As a freshman, Valentine was a starter for a senior-laden Mount Hebron team, scoring 9.7 points per game and making her mark as one of the county’s top defenders. She was a second-team All-County selection — the only freshman to make the team.
“I was the only freshman on varsity. I was really just trying to learn the ropes and contribute anyway I could,” Valentine said. “There were a lot of seniors, and most of them were really great about taking me under their wing.”
As a sophomore and junior, Valentine took a step up as a scoring threat and was one of the top five players in the league each season. She scored 15.4 points per game in 2017-18 and 19.9 per game in 2018-19.
Ahearn then took over the Vikings’ program in 2018-19, and the coach said she was originally intimidated about whether she would be able to help a player as talented as Valentine — and whether a high-skill player would embrace a new coach whose main sport as player growing up was lacrosse.
“It took maybe four practices to realize she’s all in and that she’s the best thing ever,” said Ahearn, who played lacrosse at Mount Hebron and was a two-time All-American at Hofstra. “I love coaching. I love helping kids. I’m definitely that dorky coach that believes this silly game can give you opportunities you never knew existed. I was originally hesitant because of that but then very determined once I saw how she and her parents embraced me.”
Entering this season, the Vikings graduated six seniors from last year’s team, and Valentine was the only senior on the roster to lead the young team this past winter. Valentine said the “most rewarding” part of the season was seeing her teammates grow throughout the winter.
“There were little moments during practice when I took a step back and could see how much we improved at a specific drill from the beginning of the season,” Valentine said. “This season taught me that when you stick through things and stay consistent with your hard work, it can turn into some amazing experiences and develop amazing bonds.”
The season kicked off with something Valentine said she will remember forever — scoring her 1,000th career point on opening night to make the Valentines the first mother-father-daughter trio to each score 1,000 points in Howard County history.
Tori’s mother, Kacy, scored 1,193 points for Hammond. A member of the class of 1994, Kacy is sixth all time on the Hammond scoring list. Tori’s father, Craig, scored 1,414 points for Wilde Lake and ranks seventh on the Howard County all-time scoring list. A member of the class of 1989, Craig is the leading scorer in Wildecats history.
Valentine ends her career with 1,433 points, which ranks 15th all time and fourth in Mount Hebron girls basketball history.
“They both helped me get to where I am,” she said. “I’ll never forget that night.”
“Just the fact that she did it the first game of her senior year shows how great of a high school career she had,” Ahearn said. “It means more to her that she gave that honor to her parents to join her parents on that list than just about her being on the list.”
The season ended on a sour note, though, as Mount Hebron (12-4 Howard County, 14-8 overall) lost to Marriotts Ridge in the 3A East Region I semifinals. Ahearn said the team was devastated after the loss — partly because the season was over but more so because they wanted to keep playing for Valentine.
“They were so sad when we lost our last game because of her,” Ahearn said. “Maybe two other kids on the team are basketball-first athletes. They were hysterical crying for over an hour. It wasn’t because of basketball. It was because of Tori and the bond that group created under Tori’s guidance.”
With the spring sports season likely canceled due to the coronavirus, Valentine is focused on attending Towson in the fall and running for the Tigers. She said it was a tough decision last year to choose track over basketball in terms of playing in college, but she’s confident she made the right choice.
“I chose Towson and to run track there because I really liked the school and the program,” she said. “It was difficult, but I also know I’m ready to take that step and focus on one athletic endeavor at a high level.”
Also named to first-team All-County (all selections based on voting by Howard County coaches):
Kalani Corkeron, Wilde Lake, senior
Of all the All-County picks, Corkeron’s selection as a senior is just as much about the last two seasons as it was about her senior campaign. As the best player on Wilde Lake (6-10, 8-13) the last two years, Corkeron battled through difficult circumstances as the best player on a team that won one game in each season. This season, however, Corkeron led the young Wildecats to eight wins — two more than they won in the previous three years combined — for the program’s best season since 2007-08.
The size of a forward playing the point guard position, Corkeron was one of the league’s most complete players with the ability to drive to the hoop, shoot 3-pointers, rebound and play defense. She finished the season seventh in the county in scoring at 14.3 points per game. She also averaged 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 blocks per game (fourth in the county).
She was averaging 12.8 points per game through the first 13 games of the season before going on the best stretch of games in her career, scoring 20-plus points in four of the team’s next five contests. Her top game of the season was a 24-point performance in a 50-49 overtime win over Atholton.
“Kalani, first and foremost, is an excellent leader," said Wilde Lake head coach Rhonda Corkeron. "She leads by example and by her toughness. Of course, she brought scoring and defense against the opponent’s best player. Sometimes she had to play against a point guard or a big, so she was versatile.”
Kalani Corkeron, who ended her career seven points away from 1,000, was a second-team selection last year and named honorable mention as a sophomore.
Anii Harris, Howard, senior
Harris was one of several key players that helped lead Howard (16-0, 25-0) to county and regional championships and an undefeated season.
The senior guard led the Lions in scoring and was the team’s top defensive player. She averaged 14.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game as one of the league’s top all-around players. Harris, who was a second-team All-County selection last season, scored in double figures in 18 of Howard’s 25 games, including her season high of 28 points against Westminster on Dec. 13.
In Howard’s most important wins — South River, Reservoir, River Hill and in the playoffs against Old Mill — Harris stepped up big. The Salem State (DII) commit scored key baskets late in the game against South River and Old Mill, 17 points against the Gators and 26 against the Hawks.
“Anii brought tremendous athleticism and an ability to finish around the basket,” said Howard head coach Scott Robinson. “She makes a high percentage of her shots. She’s very explosive with her first step, and she’s a great athlete. Above all else, the ability to cover the other team’s top offensive player no matter what position that player was at helped us a lot.”
Tiffany Hooker, Reservoir, senior
Hooker had the best scoring season for a Howard County girls basketball player since Oakland Mills’ Miriam McKenzie (27.6 points per game) in 2007-08. The senior guard spent the first half of the season scoring 30 points a game and ended the season at a league-leading 26.4 points. She scored 634 points — 134 more than any other player in the league — and led the county in scoring by 5.6 points a game.
No team in the league depended on a single player offensively as much as Reservoir (11-5, 16-8) relied on Hooker, who scored 45 percent of the Gators’ points. She tallied 11 games with 30-plus points and set or tied her career high six different times, with her 41-point performance against Glenelg as her season best. In the Senior Night win over Glenelg, Hooker also tallied seven rebounds, six assists and three steals, while the 41 points were the most any player scored in a single game in the last three seasons.
“I can’t overstate the obvious when it comes to Tiffany,” said Reservoir head coach Deb Taylor. “Obviously, she brought scoring to our team. She gave us the ability to be in any game no matter what the score was or who the opponent was. A player of that ability who can create her own shot and someone who can score from all three levels gives you a chance to be in any game you play.”
Her most impressive performance of the season, though, was her 36-point game in a five-point loss to undefeated Howard. Hooker carried the Gators throughout the game, making big shot after big shot, to keep the Gators close.
For the season, Hooker also finished third in the county in 3-pointers (63), fourth in free-throw percentage (77.6 percent), seventh in steals (2.8) and eighth in assists (3.1).
Despite only playing three seasons of varsity basketball, the Smith College (DIII) commit scored her 1,000th career point during a 30-point performance against Hammond on Feb. 5. Hooker finished her career with 1,183 points. Hooker was an honorable mention on last season’s All-County team.
Saniha Jackson, River Hill, senior
As the only post player on first-team All-County, Jackson led the Hawks to a 20-5 record and a second-place finish in the county standings.
The senior forward finished tops on River Hill (15-1, 20-5) in scoring (16.3 points per game), rebounding (8.7), steals (4.1), blocks (1.3) and free-throw shooting (66 percent). She was also fourth in the league in scoring and steals, fifth in rebounding, sixth and free-throw percentage and eighth in blocks. After averaging 12.3 points per game last season for a River Hill team that won the 2A state title, Jackson stepped up her scoring output by improving her post moves and her free-throw shooting.
Jackson, who was also a first-team selection last season, scored in double figures in 21 of River Hill’s 25 games. Her top outputs were a 30-point game against Oakland Mills and a career-high 31-point performance against Wilde Lake. In the first game of the playoffs, the Bowie State (DII) commit scored her 1,000th career point. She later finished her career with 1,032 points.
“Saniha was huge for us,” said River Hill head coach Teresa Waters. “She brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm and effort. Those are the three ‘E’s.’ Saniha brought all three every day. As a four-year letterman, she started every year since her freshman year. She led us in four areas and finished third in another.”
Marisa Sanchez-Henry, Howard, senior
With a balanced offense, no player is more important than the point guard, and Sanchez-Henry operated the undefeated Lions’ offense to near perfection.
The senior captain finished in the top two on Howard (16-0, 25-0) in almost every statistical category. She led the team in assists (3.8 per game) and steals (2.9), while finishing second in points (10.5) and rebounds (4.7). Her assists average and steals averages ranked fourth and sixth in the county, respectively. Her top performance of the season was against Hammond on Feb. 19 when she scored a career-high 23 points.
The Wagner (DI) commit also stepped up in big games, scoring multiple key baskets in the fourth quarter against South River and tallying 17 points in a five-point win over Reservoir. Sanchez-Henry was also a first-team All-County selection last season.
“Marisa is an unbelievable ball handler and passer," Robinson said. “She has tremendous vision. Both Marisa and Anii are very fast, but she’s as good of a ball handler as I’ve ever coach. She’s very unselfish, and teams had a difficult time pressuring us because of how good Marisa was.”
Jazmine Washington, Oakland Mills, senior
Washington maintained a high and consistent scoring output throughout the season for Oakland Mills (7-9, 12-12).
After averaging between 11.4-12.4 points per game the last two seasons, Washington increased her scoring average to 20.8 this year, which ranked second in the county behind only Reservoir’s Tiffany Hooker. She also finished first in the county in steals (5.3), second in free-throw shooting (82 percent) and 3-pointers made (73) and third in assists (4.1).
The most impressive feat Washington accomplished this season, though, was that she scored in double figures in all 24 of Oakland Mills’ games, including three 30-plus-point performances.
Her top game of the season was a career-high 33-point performance in a win over Hammond, in which she scored her 1,000th career point. Washington finished her career with 1,082 points. Washington was also a second-team selection last year and an honorable mention as a sophomore.
“Jazmine played for me for three years, and I saw her grow so much as a player,” said Oakland Mills head coach Walt Hagins. “She was our ‘I can’ player. She did everything for us. She was our leader and did anything she needed to do for us to compete each night or to win.”
Coach of the Year
Scott Robinson, Howard
Robinson and his assistants (Randy Wallenhorst, Tony Giro and James Stewart) led the Lions to an undefeated season.
Howard (16-0, 25-0) ran through county play with only one triumph by single digits. The Lions then won their first three playoff games before the postseason was halted due to the coronavirus.
The county championship is Howard’s fifth straight share or outright county crown and Robinson’s sixth with the program. In 10 years at Howard, Robinson has amassed a 206-37 record. In his 27-year Howard County coaching career, the veteran coach has a 497-154 record.
Brook Anderson, Centennial, senior: Anderson led the county in 3-pointers made with 76. She ends her career as Centennial’s top sharp shooter in girls basketball history, setting the program’s single-season record in each of her last three seasons. She finished the season seventh in the county in free-throw percentage (66 percent) and eighth in scoring (14.1 per game) and ninth in steals (2.8). She scored in double figures in 20 of the Eagles’ 23 contests, including a season-high of 25 points against South River.
Ashlyn Bender, Glenelg Country, junior: With her ability to shoot 3s and drive to the basket, Bender led the Dragons in scoring at 13.2 points per game. The junior scored in double figures in 16 of GCS’ 23 contests, with a season high of 27 points against Maryvale Prep. She was an IAAM B Conference All-Star as a sophomore and a junior and a second-team selection on the All-County team last season.
Kennedy Clark, River Hill, senior: As one of the top point guards in the county, Clark helped lead the county runner-up and state quarterfinalist Hawks. A season after she led the Hawks to the 2A state title, Clark averaged 11.8 points per game and scored in double figures in 19 of 25 contests with a season-high of 21 points. The Union College (DIII) commit finished second in the county in assists (4.2 per game), fourth in 3-pointers (42) and fifth in steals (3.7). The point guard was also a second-team All-County selection last season.
Jaidyn Harris, Oakland Mills, senior: Despite missing seven games with an injury this season, Harris proved herself as one of the top players in the county this season. Harris, who missed last season due to a torn ACL, was one of the top all-around players in the county. Her ability to score at all three levels led her to averaging 15.9 points per game, which ranked fifth in the county. The Gannon University (DII) commit finished first in the county in free-throw percentage (85.5 percent), fourth in 3-pointers per game (2.4) and sixth in steals (3.7) and assists (3.4). Harris also grabbed 6.7 rebounds per game for the Scorpions.
Emma Morath, Marriotts Ridge, senior: As one of the best and most complete post players in the county, Morath helped lead Marriotts Ridge with fellow seniors Emma Miller and Kendall Bryan to a region championship. Morath battled through ailments and sicknesses to lead the balanced Mustangs in scoring at 10.3 points per game. Her top performances of the season were her 23-point game in a win over Oakland Mills and her double-double over Mt. Hebron in the playoffs.
Gabby Scott, Howard, sophomore: Scott was the lone post player in the starting lineup for the undefeated Lions. She finished third on the team in scoring (9.6 points per game) while leading the Lions in rebounding (7.2) and blocks (1.0). The sophomore’s top performance of the season was against Old Mill in the Lions’ region championship game when Scott tallied nine points, 16 rebounds and six blocks. Scott was an honorable mention on last season’s team.
Anhyia Smith, River Hill, sophomore: Smith is a second-team selection for the season straight season. As one of the most athletic and talented in the county, Smith was a key cog for a Hawks team that won a region crown. The sophomore guard scored 11.2 points per game while ranking ninth in the county in assists (2.9 per game). She led River Hill with 15 points in the Hawks’ region-championship win over Reservoir.
Kate Abunassar, Reservoir, junior; Kendall Bryan, Marriotts Ridge, senior; Jocelyn Fogle, Hammond, junior; Mia Hargrett, Atholton, sophomore; Caroline Haynes, Glenelg Country, junior; Camille Malagar, Howard, senior; Emma Miller, Marriotts Ridge, senior; Joi Thornton, Chapelgate, senior.
1. Howard (16-0 Howard County, 25-0 overall); 2. River Hill (15-1, 20-5); 3. Mt. Hebron (12-4, 14-8); 4. Reservoir (11-5, 16-8); 5. Marriotts Ridge (11-5, 18-8); 6. Centennial (10-6, 13-10); 7. Oakland Mills (7-9, 12-12); 8. Wilde Lake (6-11, 8-13); 9. Atholton (5-11, 7-15); 10. Hammond (3-13, 5-18); 11. Glenelg (1-15, 4-20); 12. Long Reach (0-16, 0-21). Glenelg Country School (7-4 IAAM B Conference, 12-11); Chapelgate (1-9 IAAM C, 1-11).