Courts and mats around Howard County played host to another crop of future standout athletes this past winter. The area’s junior varsity teams often played in front of smaller crowds and with less fanfare, but there was plenty of standout play, memorable games and building toward the future.
In an effort to give some of these players a deserved moment in the spotlight, we reached out to each school through its athletic administration to find out about some of the highlights and top performers from the winter season. Here’s what we heard back:
Centennial started the season slow but by the end won as many games as it lost this winter by going 8-8 in county and 10-10 overall.
The Eagles were led sophomore captain Nour Eloseily (7.2 ppg), freshman captain Callie Lascasas (6.8 ppg) and sophomore Briana Fant (6.9 ppg).
Eloseily was the only returning starter and was “a great leader in and off of the court,” coach William Martin said. “She is a selfless player and worked hard to make sure her teammates correctly on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.”
Martin said Lascasas stood out because of the energy and hustle she brought to every game. Her ability to put pressure on opponents enabled the Eagles to play faster and more aggressive as a team.
Fant, meanwhile, was a tough defender and good rebounder who capitalized on scoring opportunities. “Briana’s fundamentals really improved throughout the season and I am looking forward to seeing how she contributes at the varsity level,” Martin said.
Other standouts included freshmen Jasmin Kim, Julia Littlefield and Misha Khan.
Among the season highlights was beating Reservoir by eight points after losing to the Gators by 24 earlier in the season.
“It was a great team win and a big improvement from our first game against them. It was a close game but we held on at the end for the victory,” Martin said. “I was tremendously proud of our team and this game showed the type of basketball we were capable of playing.”
Led by sophomore captains Amelia Milasinovich, Kayonna Cook and Cadence Miller, Glenelg was one of the best teams in the league and finished 14-3 in county play and 15-5 overall.
Krunkaitis, who has the team’s season high in points with 17 in their first game against Marriotts Ridge, was the Gladiators’ top scorer with 123 total points, while Molly Sloan (87) and Cook (82) also pitched in. Miller, Shawn Coombs and Cook each had seven made 3-pointers on the year. Cook also had 36 steals in their final nine games and Jocelyn Torres-Kruger led the team with 60 rebounds.
Glenelg lost its first two games of the year but bounced back to win its next nine games. The Gladiators avenged its opening game defeat against Marriotts Ridge with a 12-point win later in the season.
“Our man defense, along with key foul shots by Molly Sloan, helped us secure the win,” coach Mary Kittleman said. “I could have not asked for a more enjoyable first season as the Glenelg coach. I am extremely proud of everyone’s effort and dedication throughout the season.”
Hammond had a “huge year of growth,” Mona Reid said, and after a slow start the team quickly developed into a “hardworking and supportive group.”
Sophomore Daja Britt and freshman Alberte “Ally” Stegeager were noted for their growth throughout the season.
“Their hard work was recognized by the varsity coaches, which allowed them the opportunity to finish the season on the varsity team,” Reid said.
Much like its varsity counterpart, Howard was among the county’s best teams and went 13-2 in county and 14-4 overall.
The Lions opened their season by beating Reservoir, 37-36, which coach James Stewart said boosted their confidence and sparked a five-game winning streak before a loss to Meade.
The team was led by its four returners Kristin Sabatini, Kennedy Perry, Molly Kane and Katie Oler, to go along with seven newcomers. Paige Wine led the team in scoring with 9.3 points a game, followed closely behind by Sabatini (6.8 ppg) and Madelyn Coleman (6.7 ppg).
Coleman was Howard’s top rebounder, averaging eight a game, and Anika Amin (5.0 rpg) and Perry (4.0 rpg) helped on the glass as well.
With 13 players averaging at least five minutes per game, Marriotts Ridge went 14-2 in county and 16-4 overall to finish with one of the league’s best records.
Point guard Cara Delmonte led the team in assists and played outstanding on-ball defense, according to coach Ryan Scanlon, and Lane Schank, Hayley Lettinga and Olivia Mahon created matchup difficulties for other teams with their height and rebounding. Caroline Meininger often led the team in scoring and was explosive in transition, while freshman Amanda Windsor’s athleticism and rebounding were an asset all season, Scanlon said.
“I knew I had a special group pretty early on in the season. They were just really unselfish, good teammates, humble, and it was evident that they were working hard,” Scanlon said. “I showed up for practice one day and many of them had already ran a mile on the track before practice. It was completely their own idea and a testament to their work ethic.”
Among the season highlights was a come-from-behind win against Reservoir.
All five starters eventually moved up to varsity for Mt. Hebron, which won its final 12 games of the season and finished with a 13-3 county record and 15-5 overall.
Freshman Danielle Bodziak led the team in scoring (9.5 ppg), assists, (1.7 apg) and steals (2.7 spg) and sophomores Ashley Unkenholz and Clare Smith averaged 6.0 and 5.8 points per game, respectively. Smith also led the team in rebounding and averaged 6.1 per game and Mia Holland added 5.7 per contest.
Among the Vikings’ season highlights was beating previously undefeated Howard, 42-37.
Oakland Mills coach Simone Cools said she saw growth and maturity from her team throughout the season.
“I cannot say our season didn’t go the way we wanted because from the beginning I wanted girls to come in, learn, develop and grow,” she said. “And I can say with full confidence that they did.”
Cools said point guard Rashelle Buynum did “everything we told her” and Iyanna McMuffin was one of the team’s strongest players before getting injured halfway through the season.
“The team really felt like they lost a big piece but I believe that only made them stronger,” Cools said. “People started to step up and become leaders because of that. ... The energy from this team was infectious and they couldn’t have made me more proud. Our losses and difficulties became nothing but lessons and knowledge.”
Under first-year coach Mike Linsenmeyer, Atholton was one of the best teams in the league and finished 14-3 in county and 16-4 overall, highlighted by a 12-game winning streak after the holiday break during which they beat previously undefeated Centennial.
“The players took pride in practicing hard and working on fundamentals on a daily basis,” Linsenmeyer said. “The players were a pleasure to coach and enjoyed each others company while having a solid season.”
Deven Daniel was the team’s vocal leader who could play several positions and Justin Jennings a quiet leader who dominated the boards all season. Malcolm Jones’ work ethic stood out, according to Linsenmeyer, while shooting guard Jack Anderson was a “tremendous” 3-point shooter who was a tough matchup for opponents.
Centennial pieced together a 16-1 county record and 21-1 mark overall on the way to winning a second straight county title. Coach Chris Sanders said it was a “business-like” atmosphere this winter.
“We returned a fair amount of experience and the unspoken rule was to play our way and win them all,” he said. “Each year we set the expectations very high. We have a seasoned coaching staff, incredibly supportive parents and a great group of players that bought what we were selling, and it made this season especially rewarding. Each year the players want to out-perform the team from the prior year. Everyone contributed at various times on our team from one to 13 throughout our season together.”
Playing mostly man-to-man defense, the unit help opponents to 37 points per game, while the offense scored 61 per contest. Bryson Baker, Shane Taylor, Sean Lee and Liam Lovering were the team’s leading scorers and Andrew Hockersmith, Aaron Chen, Tim Woerner and Cameron Grable provided key baskets, rebounds and assists along with the timely support of Sammy Molz, Min Hwang, Kedar Collier, Mattieu Jacob and Jalen Eudell, Sanders said.
Chapelgate went 8-8 in MIAA B Conference play and 10-13 overall while averaging 47 points per game.
Freshman Forward Christian Taylor averaged 14 points per game and freshmen guards Xavier Samuel and Austin Robertson, junior guard Jeramiah McNeal and sophomore Bryce Jackson also contributed offensively. Taylor also led the team in rebounds and steals and McNeal in assists.
After a slow start, coach Christopher Tringali said the team started to jell after scoring 81 points against Indian Creek toward the end of the season.
“The players were fully committed and bought into our philosophy of play hard, play smart, play together, all while staying conformed to our Christian values,” he said.
Consisting mostly of freshmen and two key sophomores, Hammond finished 2-15 in county play and 5-18 overall. Freshman Ian Addison led the team with 14 points and five rebounds per game before being called up to varsity late in the season. Freshman Nick Thomas was an “all-around athlete” who did everything from rebounding to leading the team in steals per game, coach David Patrick said. Sophomores Cal Hewitt and Reilly Moore “brought IQ and leadership to our team throughout the year when there were tough times and games,” Patrick said.
Among the season highlights was an away game against rival Oakland Mills.
“Although we didn’t win, our team battled to the very end and never gave up,” Patrick said. “The poise and toughness that they played with, especially our freshmen, made me realize that the team was really something special.”
In the final game of the season against Marriotts Ridge, Hammond won a back-and-forth game in the final minutes.
“The entire team was engaged and I knew they really wanted to end the year on a high note, and they did that,” Patrick said. “They gave me everything that they had in them and left it all on the floor.”
Howard finished the season with a 13-2 county record and 17-2 record overall. Camren Kovach led the team with 14 points per game, while Braden Zehring (11.5 ppg), Curtis Eley (7.5 ppg), Alex Brown (7.2 ppg) and Ryan Kuhel (6.5 ppg) were consistent offensive threats as well.
Defensively, the Lions were led by Coby Robinson (3.1 steals per game and 5.3 assists) and Conner Henderson (5.8 rebounds per game). Other key contributors overall were Adam Asifo, Jack Stokes and Nick Moroney.
“Throughout the year this team faced adversity in many ways, but always found ways to overcome them,” coach Michael Twardowicz said.
No starters from last year returned for Long Reach this winter but coach Obi Ukwuoma said it “was a year of learning” for the Lightning program.
“Our freshmen were thrust into the spotlight early,” he said. “We started off the year with a couple of tough road losses as everyone was getting use to the speed and the in-game adjustments that comes with playing basketball at the high school level. After Christmas our players started to gain experience and it started to show in their play on the court.”
Injuries and call-ups, however, took a toll later in the season. Sophomore Kendall Sims, one of the team’s best platers, broke his leg and missed the remainder of the season and sophomore Chris Martin, the team’s primary ball handler, was moved to varsity midway through the campaign.
“Chris set everything up for us and his speed with the ball caused a lot of mismatches,” Ukwuoma said. “He was also our best defender and great a rebounder — defensively and offensively — for his position.
“Next year shows some promise in that we had freshman that had to take those minutes, and with that, gained valuable experience for their upcoming sophomore campaigns.”
Marriotts Ridge was .500 in county play and 12-8 overall this winter and were led by sophomore Cole Tran, who scored 20 or more points eight times, including 31 against Century in the Mustangs’ Christmas tournament championship game.
Robby Gorman was the team’s second-leading scorer and had a season-high 26 points against Hammond, while sophomore Austin Avent had a season high of 23 points against River Hill. Justin Allen and Drew Ross were also instrumental to Marriotts Ridge’s success.
“Justin [was] our quiet assassin ... and Drew [was] our resilient big man [who] was a reckoning in the paint for us, making huge plays and getting stops against top players in the county,” said Mustangs coach Rayna DuBose.
“We had our best season this year competing with top players in the county. We had a rough season with a lot of injuries but all of the guys rallied for each other and never gave up. I look forward to seeing these players and the Mustangs program continue to improve.”
Mt. Hebron finished the season with a 6-17 record but had plenty of highlights, according to coach Bobby Macheel. The Vikings defeated Westminster at the Liberty holiday tournament, which Macheel called “the ultimate team win,” and scored 42 points in the first half against Glenelg. “This was a game of strong, balanced scoring,” he said.
Individually, Quran Briggs led the team by averaging 17.3 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the field. He also averaged 3.1 assists per game. Sean Harrington led the way in defensive rebounding with 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, and Ashton D’Alonzo (6.4 ppg), Guan Morris (1.6 steals per game, 6.0 ppg) and Nija Brown (1.9 offensive rebounds per game, 5.9 ppg) also contributed to the scoring load. Christian Nazaire averaged 3.9 rebounds and 4.7 points per contest.
River Hill ended its season 11-10 overall and 6-9 in county play under first-year coach Brandon Estrain, who took over after returning coach Jordan Kinsey was forced to step away a few weeks into the season due to health-related issues.
“The team faced a lot of adversity this season going under some administrative changes early in the season, and we also changed up the offense moving away from the River Hill-style Princeton offense,” Estrain said.
The Hawks were led by three sophomore starters: Christian Myers (9.9 ppg, 3.6 assists per game, 2.3 steals per game), Jonah Stoutenborough (10.9 ppg, 28 3-pointers) and Grant Heidebrecht (8.5 rpg, 2.2 blocks per game). Freshman Tishe Saliu (11.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 55.3 percent) also averaged a double-double, and sophomore Adam Blum also chipped in with timely leadership and playmaking on both ends of the court.
“This season was little rocky having its up-and-downs but the team battled through it, especially coming out against North County and winning 60-41 just a game after losing 63-33 to a very tough Oakland Mills team,” said Estrain, who added his team rebounded from that loss by winning the next two games.
After starting the season 1-2, Wilde Lake won 12 of its next 13 and 14 of its last 17 games to finish the year 15-5 and 10-5 in the league.
“Throughout the campaign, the team experienced many challenges,” said Wildecats coach Peter Bergin. “They responded to adversity by supporting each other, demonstrating consistent energy in practices, and playing with a genuine passion for the game.
Team captains Brian Ihejurobi, Abolaji Monk, Enosh Minney and Joey Constant were all standouts on the court. Monk led the team in scoring and averaged 16 points per game, while Minney and Judson Lincoln were the team’s “floor generals” who had “a keen awareness of the time on the clock, the score and the importance of each possession,” Bergin said.
Amir Macktoon, Amari Hudson and Darian Smart were Wilde Lake’s top defenders who also flashed offensively, especially in transition, and Joey Constant and Lukas Julian were strong in the paint.
“The team’s sense of urgency, pride and grit to battle and to persevere became their performance hallmarks for the season,” Bergin said. “With this group of young men leading the charge, the future is bright for Wilde Lake’s basketball program.”
The county wrestling tournament took place Feb. 18 at River Hill. Here are the top-six finishers and results for each weight class:
1st place: Kyle Hansberger (Glenelg) won by decision over Hamza Aboarob (River Hill) (Dec 5-4); 3rd place: Nick Machiran (Mt. Hebron) won by decision over Muhammad Khan (Mt. Hebron) (TB-1 2-1); 5th place: Myles Williams (Oakland Mills) won by decision over Moiz Sabir (Centennial) (Dec 4-1)
1st place: Jaegon Hibbitts (Glenelg) won by major decision over Griffin Ordowski (Mt. Hebron) (Maj 15-6); 3rd place: Aiden Mihalik (River Hill) won by decision over Kyle Sellman (Oakland Mills) (Dec 11-4); 5th place: Caden Manwiller (Marriotts Ridge) won by fall over Nicholas May (Hammond) (Fall 1:56)
1st place: Arrows Delgado (Hammond) won by fall over Owen Segala (Mt. Hebron) (Fall 0:40); 3rd place: Sam Johnson (Atholton) won by fall over Kwabla Boateng (Long Reach) (Fall 4:27); 5th place: Riley O`Shea (Marriotts Ridge) won by fall over Caden Canapp (River Hill) (Fall 1:00)
1st place: Ricco Goss (Atholton) won by decision over Taegon Hibbitts (Glenelg) (Dec 5-4); 3rd place: Joseomar Alfaro Hernandez (Oakland Mills) won by decision over Sam Bussink (Centennial) (Dec 10-7); 5th place: Kevin Hermstein (Marriotts Ridge) won by major decision over Jacob Pair (Glenelg) (Maj 14-3)
1st place: David Riina (Centennial) won by fall over Spencer Thomas (River Hill) (Fall 2:47); 3rd place: Eric Grinwis (Hammond) won by fall over Kevin Yang (Glenelg) (Fall 1:41); 5th place: Khali Brown-Smith (Hammond) won by decision over Noah Villiger (Mt. Hebron) (Dec 10-6)
1st place: James Duncan (Atholton) won by fall over Christopher Alvarenga (Hammond) (Fall 2:50); 3rd place: Nicholas Li (River Hill) won by decision over John Sedor (Centennial) (Dec 9-7); 5th place: Jorge Zheng (Marriotts Ridge) won by decision over Jack Slack (Marriotts Ridge) (SV-1 7-5)
1st place: Sebastian Silberman (Atholton) won by decision over Tristan Kneas (Centennial) (TB-1 8-6); 3rd place: Nick Capino (Oakland Mills) won by fall over Peter Gruys (Centennial) (Fall 3:22); 5th place: Gavin Turner (Marriotts Ridge) won by fall over Greg Culver (Glenelg) (Fall 3:25)
1st place: Kian Payne (Glenelg) won by fall over Liam Slade (River Hill) (Fall 3:08); 3rd place: Gerado Perez-Lopez (River Hill) won by major decision over Jason Alfaro Hernandez (Oakland Mills) (Maj 12-0); 5th place: Michael Yang (Glenelg) won by fall over Mohamed Benalla (Centennial) (Fall 0:34)
1st place: Michael Claxton (Oakland Mills) won by fall over Daniel Vaysman (Glenelg) (Fall 0:35); 3rd place: Laith Aboarob (River Hill) won by decision over Daniel Mize (Atholton) (Dec 5-4); 5th place: Jaelen Mathews (Oakland Mills) won by decision over Kyriakos Galanakos (River Hill) (SV-1 9-7)
1st place: Jake Durkin (Glenelg) won by fall over Jack Ryan (Atholton) (Fall 0:53); 3rd place: Jeffrey Winkler (Glenelg) won by decision over Logan O`Connell (Glenelg) (Dec 6-5); 5th place: Jaris Schmidt (Hammond) won by disqualification over Laurence Preston (Oakland Mills) (DQ)
1st place: Jordan Brown (Hammond) won by major decision over John Liu (Centennial) (Maj 13-5); 3rd place: Evan Turner (Mt. Hebron) won by fall over Michael Vekshtein (Glenelg) (Fall 0:52); 5th place: Aman Amed (Long Reach) won by fall over Jacob Willis (Hammond) (Fall 1:29)
1st place: Miles Fletcher Smith (Long Reach) won by fall over Younggwang Han (Centennial) (Fall 4:33); 3rd place: Keon Kosh (Hammond) won by decision over Daniel Dickson (Oakland Mills) (SV-1 4-3); 5th place: Trenton Jones (Hammond) won by fall over Brandon Castillo (Oakland Mills) (Fall 0:46)
1st place: Miles Crook (Oakland Mills) won by fall over Angthony Rivera Quinteros (Oakland Mills) (Fall 3:02); 3rd place: Nicholas Deshields-Dyce (Hammond) won by fall over Andrew Kasule (Oakland Mills) (Fall 3:51); 5th place: Alonzo Brooks (Oakland Mills) won by fall over Andrew Harper (Marriotts Ridge) (Fall 1:50)
1st place: Charlie Whitsett (Glenelg) won by decision over Olanrewaju Italoye (Marriotts Ridge) (UTB 3-2); 3rd place: Kyle Gratton (River Hill) won by fall over George Clark (Hammond) (Fall 1:28); 5th place: Sean Hicks (Long Reach) won by fall over Austin Stewart (Hammond) (Fall 0:50)
Reach Brent Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports