There might not have been the same fanfare surrounding their games as those of their varsity counterparts, but on courts around the county this winter, junior varsity boys and girls basketball programs laid the foundation for the future.
There were big wins, lessons learned and plenty of memorable individual performances.
In an effort to give these athletes and teams 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 fall season. Here's what we heard back:
Atholton finished with a 7-9 record in county play and 8-11 mark overall.
Shooting guard Raymond Brown finished as the team's top scorer, scoring 198 points on 42-percent shooting with 22 made 3-point shots. Small forward Darren Miller was the team's top rebounder with 123 boards — while also chipping in with 34 blocks and 34 assists — and point guard Bryce Jamison was a team leader in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and steals.
The team had an up-and-down first half of the season, but regrouped to put together one string of five straight wins and never lost back-to-back games during the final month.
"This season was full of learning and development for this Raider group," coach Brian Jamison said. "Next season has promise as lots of the freshmen were able to play and learn from valuable game-time minutes."
It was another standout season for Centennial, capturing the county title with an overall record of 18-1. Included along the way was winning the Chesapeake Holiday Tournament after a pair of convincing victories.
The team added eight newcomers that complimented the returning sophomores.
"We had great balance, depth and versatility. The freshmen provided timely scoring, rebounding and much needed tenacity on the defensive side of the ball," said coach Chris Sanders. "We knew what to expect from the sophomores, but they still exceeded expectations because of their hard work in the offseason."
Playing man-to-man defense, the Eagles held opposing teams to an average of 37.9 points a game — a JV program record.
The team was led in scoring by Joey Sedlacko (15 points per game), Brandon Bonner (13 ppg, 10 rebounds per game), Matt Schickner (10 ppg, five assists per game) and Jeong Hwang (nine ppg). Ty Sams and Connor Carpenter added leadership and a defensive presence.
Shane Taylor, Bryson Baker, Marco Benavides and Liam Lovering earned key minutes as well, while Aaron Chen, Iain Lee, Sean Lee and Andrew Hockersmith provided boosts off the bench with a variety of skill sets.
"The future is bright. Our kids bought into what we were selling, plan to play a ton in the offseason and represented the basketball program well," Sanders said.
It was a winning season for Chapelgate, finishing with an overall record of 15-13 to go along with an 8-8 league record in the MIAA B Conference. The Yellowjackets averaged 51 points per game offensively, while allowing opponents to score just 42 points per game against them.
Freshman Brandon Levi led the offense with 284 total points (13.5 ppg), while sophomore Zach Knox (273 points) and sophomore Jace Perfater (202) were right behind him. Kitan Ogunmola (117 points), Luke McMillan (108), Dominic Parker (80) and Kendal Mitchell (79) were other notable contributors.
Parker also led the team in assists (60) and McMillan led the team in 3-pointers made. Defensively, Parker and Mitchell led the team with 48 steals apiece, followed by Perfater and Levi with 34 each.
Knox was the team leader in rebounds (182) and blocks (20).
"There was a great chemistry on the team and the players bought in to the program philosophy of, 'Play hard, Play smart, play together. respecting all, fearing none, while using basketball as a means to be more conformed to our Christian Faith,'" coach Christopher Tringali said.
Highlighted by an eight-game winning streak during the middle of the season, Glenelg finished the year with a 9-4 county record and 13-4 record overall. There were also tough road wins over Oakland Mills and Glen Burnie, along with a season-concluding win over Westminster.
"For me, the highlight of the year was a near-perfect game on the road against Westminster at the end of the season," coach Alex Blazek said. "Because of the player's commitment to our program's principles and philosophy, we earned a 40-point victory. It was a total team effort, in which every player contributed in some way to the victory. As a coach, that's what you want to see — your team buying into the program and the things you've been teaching them all year."
Jack Walsh and Eddie Dello Russo were both top scorers and rebounders for the Gladiators. Other standouts during the season were Kyle Dry, Max Pearcy, Jon Kinloch and Nate Curtis.
Wins were at a premium for Hammond, but coach Sean Headen said that his team of seven freshmen and seven sophomores had more victories this winter than last year.
"There weren't many wins, but the team never splintered," Headen said. "There were some players from last year who helped keep the team together and the morale high. The season started slowly, but the team gained steam as the winter grew cold."
Sophomore Desmond Lamont led the way in scoring, while sophomore Kahleb Mair was the leader in rebounding. Sophomore Talib Pierre, meanwhile, was the Golden Bears' leader on and off the court with a steady presence.
Howard finished the winter with a record of 11-6. Christian Rodgers was the team's leading scorer (15.6 points per game), Kyle Colbert led the way in assists (4.5 assists per game) and Jeff Bruner collected the most rebounds (7.6 rebounds per game).
Braden Zehring, Will Drnach and Cameron Kovach were other key players on the offensive end, while Justin Kramer, Coby Robinson and Ryan Kuhel stood out defensively.
Led by some mentally tough freshmen and sophomores, Marriotts Ridge compiled a 7-11 overall record (3-10 county) this winter. Coach Rayna DuBose said the team's quote for the season was "If there is no struggle, there is no progress," from Frederick Douglass.
"I believe our ah ha moment this season was when we went to Wilde Lake and played the most fundamentally tough game, resulting in a 51-47 win," DuBose said. "The Mustangs never gave up and they constantly believed in each other."
Sophomore Andrew Page was the high scorer on the team, including 23 points against South River. Sophomore point guard Cameron Smith also had some big offensive efforts, including 21 points against Howard.
Sophomore forward Patrick Greene provided a presence under the basket and on the block, going for a season-high 12 points against Wilde Lake. Andrew Ho was a versatile shooting guard, who had a season-high 15 points against Mt. Hebron.
Austin Avent, Cole Tran, Robby Gromman, Drew Ross and Justin Allen were a part of the talented freshmen class. Avent scored a season high of 11 points against Wilde Lake.
It was a 10-11 season overall (5-10 in county) for Mt. Hebron. Among the season highlights was winning the Liberty Holiday Tournament.
"In the championship game we beat Damascus, 59-57. The game was extremely exciting, as both teams were making impossible shots down the stretch," Mt. Hebron coach Jared Ettinger said. "Finnian Devine and Justin Michelotti stepped up to hit huge shots in the waning seconds to win the tournament."
Michelotti was the team's top outside shooter and finished with an average of 11 points a game. Chris Lewis also averaged 11 points a game and was a standout defender. Point guard Quran Briggs was a top scorer as well with an average of 10 points per game.
Matt Millen, meanwhile, was the Vikings' top rebounder and shot blocker.
Reservoir was one of the county's top teams, finishing with a record of 9-4 in county and 12-6 overall. There were lots of big wins, but coach Ian Pope said that beating a previously undefeated Dunbar team on the road was right there at the top of the list.
"We climbed out of a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter by outscoring our opponent 22-7 for the 54-51 win," Pope said. "That win taught our team that basketball is played the same around the world and as long as we execute and play together any game can be won."
Sophomores Rashad Ballard (15 points per game), James-Michael Musser (10 ppg and six rebounds per game), along with freshmen Jason Ha (14 ppg) and Victor McKoy (10 rpg and two blocks per game), were among the standouts for the Gators.
Under first-year coach Jordan Knisley, River Hill mirrored the success of its varsity program with an 11-2 county record and 15-4 mark overall. The team introduced the princeton offense, preparing the players to be able to transition seamlessly up to the next level next season.
"[Since we are] graduating nine seniors from the varsity team, their development was more important than our record to me," Knisley said.
Sophomores Jordan James (15 points and 5.5 rebounds per game), Elijah Feeney (13 ppg and 6 rpg) and Beau Brade ( 9.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 3.5 steals per game) led the team's scoring. Jackson Graves (5 ppg, 4 assists per game), meanwhile, was the "straw who stirred the drink," according to Knisley.
Woodie Lynott (8.5 rpg and 3.2 blocks per game) was the defensive anchor all season.
Ten of the Hawks' games were decided by five points or less and the team won eight of them. Among the season highlights was winning its holiday tournament at Magruder High School, executing a press that the players had not previously worked on in practice. The rest of the season, Knisley said that press became one of River Hill's secret weapons.
Wilde Lake finished with an overall record of 8-8 this winter, with Marcus Mitchell leading the way with an average of 14.6 points a game. Center Kwaku Boampong was also a statistical leader, averaging 12.6 ppg, and he and Mitchell were both called up to varsity before the end of the season.
Other standout players included Justin Avinger, Damari Ryles, Cameron Burris and Abilaji Monk. Avinger and Ryles were leaders defensively, Burris stood out inside with his rebounding and Monk provided toughness on both ends of the court.
"The highlight of the team's season was capping it off on a high note. They played excellent team basketball and won the last two games based on their intensity, togetherness and passion," coach Pete Bergin said.
Finishing the season on an eight-game winning streak, Centennial posted a county record of 10-3 and overall mark of 12-5.
Freshmen Tori Pearson (11.5 points per game) and Alejandra Urquiaga (6.3 ppg) were the leaders offensively, with sophomore Sarah Sopchick (4.8) right behind them. Also playing important roles were freshman Nour Eloseily and sophomore Sarah Toth.
Included in the season-ending run of victories was an overtime triumph over River Hill and a come-from-behind win over Liberty. Against River Hill, an old-fashioned three-point play by Toth in overtime ended up being the deciding play in a 39-35 win. Then after trailing most of the game against Liberty, Urquiaga made a pair of huge baskets on back-to-back possessions late in the contest to earn a 29-28 victory.
Pearson led the Eagles in scoring in both games, scoring 17 against River Hill and 11 against Liberty.
"These two wins validated the improvements our team made over the course of the season," coach William Martin said. "In the first half of the year, we struggled to score and lost similarly close games — such as a last-second loss to Glenelg. The tough loss to Glenelg was our last loss of the season before winning our last eight games. In four years as the JV girls basketball coach at Centennial, this year's team improved more over the course of the season than any other team I have coached.
"This is a testament to their positive attitudes and work ethic every day in practice. They had a desire to get better every single day and made each day of the basketball season enjoyable."
Glenelg got better as the season progressed on the way to a 9-4 county record and 10-7 record overall. The team put together a six-game winning streak and won seven out of eight games after starting the year 1-3.
A road victory over Centennial, during which the Gladiators trailed by double digits in the first half and rallied to earn a 33-31 win, was a big confidence boost according to coach David Ebbe.
"Kayonna Cook hit the go-ahead 3-pointer later in the game, which gave us our first lead, and Carmela D'Antuono hit two crucial free throws despite a very loud and engaged crowd to help us seal the victory," Ebbe said.
Cook was the Gladiators' top scorer this winter with 104 points, while Cadence Miller (78 points) and Kendall Castor (75) were top offensive players as well. D'Antuono (11 threes made), Castor (11) and Miller (7) were the team's top 3-point shooters.
"I was very proud of our balance and our depth this season," Ebbe said. "Despite having 13 players on our roster, we were able to get every player into all 17 of our games. All 13 players were capable of contributing something positive on the court, whether it was outside shooting, solid defense, strong rebounding, calm and controlled ball-handling against pressure, or a combination of these things."
Hammond had a season defined by growth, featuring leadership, hustle and strong defense from the duo of Dajanae Britt and Juanita Mackey.
"We started very slow and young in the game, but later advanced to a team that began to understand the value of teamwork and game strategies," said varsity coach Mona Reid. "We are looking forward to this team working hard and growing as players in the offseason."
With lots of new players on the roster, Long Reach won just one game this winter (1-12 county and 1-14 overall). But coach Rashida Challenger said there were still several standout players who showed great improvement over the course of the season.
Returners Maddisen Watkins and Ashleigh Nagle were the team leaders and provided stability. Newcomers Natalie Wilson, Tory Ely and Melissa Osei-Tutu, meanwhile, were among those that grew into key roles.
Bench players Janea Dunham, Joannie Volquin, Vanessa Osei-Tutu, Mary Debele and Sarah Hustead also made contributions in a number of different ways.
The biggest highlight of the season was a win against Wilde Lake, where the Lightning rallied to pull out a come-from-behind victory.
"They locked in and focused on defense in ways that we hadn't up to that point and came together for one common goal and that was to win the game for each other," Challenger said. "It was a turning point in our season in terms of how close these young ladies became as a team. That's inevitably why we as coaches should be doing this, to foster an environment where these young ladies, who would never talk to each other in their regular everyday lives, now are forming relationships that will outlast sports."
For the second year in a row, Marriotts Ridge won the girls JV county title by going undefeated in league play. Overall, the Mustangs had a record of 16-1 and averaged 49 points a game offensively throughout the season.
The team's only loss came in its third game against South Carroll by five points.
Sophomore guard Emma Miller was the top scorer for the Mustangs with 156 points, while sophomore forward Caroline Crawford had 105 points and was a leader in rebounds as well.
Freshman guard Morgan Lee was another leader, excelling with "aggressive drives to the basket," according to coach Kristan Bond.
Defense was another calling card for Marriotts Ridge, holding the opposition to under 20 points total in 11 out of 17 games. A full-court press, spearheaded by freshmen Cara DelMonte and Caroline Meininger, was particularly effective and kept the game pace fast.
Mt. Hebron had just three returning players and lots of newcomers, but that didn't prevent the Vikings from achieving a county record of 7-6 (9-10 overall).
"We started off our season very strong and ended the same," coach Kelly Jones said.
Sophomores Christina Bodziak and Olivia Kyrger provided great leadership, with Bodziak finishing as the team's leading scorer.
Among the season highlights was a win over Oakland Mills where freshman Mia Holland made a buzzer-beating layup at the end of regulation to clinch the victory.
Freshman Ashley Unkenholz was the team's top defender and Holland was the most physical player, according to Jones.
"Overall, the girls fundamentals have grown so much over the season," Jones said. "I loved coacheing this great group of girls."
Oakland Mills built momentum as the season progressed, even putting together a three-game winning streak at one point that included victories over Eastern Tech and Hammond. Coach Simone Cools said the win over Eastern Tech, which was the Scorpions' first of the season at that point, was a memorable one.
"We were pressuring them the whole game and Deniyah [Rhynes] forced about four turnovers back-to-back which led to layups," Cools said. "Once that happened, it's like the whole team started to click. You could just see the progression and team work developing on the court. We ran our plays and scored, but the defense is what really stuck with me because they made it hard for them to even bring the ball past half court."
Rhynes, point guard Ikera Paul and small forward I'yanna Mcduffie were all leaders for the Scorpions throughout the season. Cools also said she thought Yasmine and Haley Barham each made great progress on both ends of the floor as first-year basketball players.
It was a 5-8 county season (6-13 overall) for Reservoir this winter.
"We started the season with a group of players that were relatively new to basketball," coach James Mackin said. "All season long, we consistently improved and always played as a team."
Mia Smiraglia (116 points) and Lizzie Dudzinski (97) were the team's leading scorers, while Regan Bouie (80 rebounds) and Dudzinski (72) were the top players in terms of rebounds. Defensively, the leaders were Bouie (12 blocks), Savannah Keller (12 blocks), Sam Guchhait (17 steals) and Sophia Cinotti (16 steals).
River Hill was one of the top teams in the county, going 11-2 in league play and 13-4 overall. Freshman point guard Zoe Scott (8.4 points per game), sophomore co-captain Riley Cummins (7.7 ppg) and sophomore co-captain Caitlin Duffy (7.1 ppg) were the leaders along the way.
"The co-captains this year, Riley Cummins and Caitlin Duffy, were phenomenal leaders. They led by example on and off the court consistently," coach Ayanna Randolph said. "They are definitely the reason this season was such a success. Of course, like any team, we had our ups and downs. But the teamwork, dedication and constant improvement helped our team succeed this season."
Among the season highlights was Scott compiling 20 points and seven steals in a final game victory over Oakland Mills. Duffy had a 15-point and 19-rebound effort in a victory over Atholton, while Cummins registered 15 points and eight steals in a win over Hammond.
Alexa Thompson also stood out by averaging three blocks a game, while posting a 14-rebound game in an overtime victory over Centennial.
Wilde Lake finished the season with a record of 1-12 in county and 1-15 overall, but coach Ryan Hudy said he did see some positives in the rebuilding season. A 28-24 victory over Hammond in January was the first for the program in the last two years and Hudy said the team was competitive in another five contests.
"We only had seven players on the roster this year, so we had a number of girls who have never played basketball before playing meaningful minutes for us, which didn't result in the overall record we wanted," Hudy said. "But the new girls learned and improved quickly. Our strength was our defense, as we held some very good basketball teams to their lowest scores of the season. I was also very impressed with our endurance."
Sophomore forward Alexa Mullican was the team's leading scorer at 10.9 points per game, while sophomore center Narda Espinoza was the main interior presence with 6.4 points and 10.2 rebounds a game. Sophomore point guard GiGi Porter led the team in assists and steals, while also averaging 5.2 points a game.