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Laurel girls basketball reloads with high hopes

Sophomore point guard Nayieh Miller will be a key to the backcourt for the Laurel girls basketball team this season.
Sophomore point guard Nayieh Miller will be a key to the backcourt for the Laurel girls basketball team this season.(Staff photo by Jen Rynda)

Judging by past history, the Laurel girls basketball team knows how to overcome the loss of graduating players, and the table is set for them to do it again this year.

Last season, the Lady Spartans returned only two starters from the previous year and they were picked to finish in near the bottom in the league standings.

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"We were picked in the bottom the last two years," said coach Tommy Harrison, whose squad finished 14-11 and went all the way to the regional championship game before losing to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Gone from that team are two key starters who are now playing in college.

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Megan Brown, now at Division III Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, N.J., and Lisa Jing, now at Bowie State University, each averaged 16 points last season.

They were part of an in-season turnaround that included a season split with Bowie.

"Bowie beat us by 34 the first game, and we beat them by one here," said Harrison, of the 63-62 victory at Laurel High. "We shocked the world."

The only returning active starter from last year is sophomore point guard Nayieh Miller.

The 5-foot-1 inch co-captain with senior Omasan Uyebi (5-7) made her biggest statement in a win over Parkdale when she had 14 steals.

Sophomore forward Keyonna Biggs (5-5) averaged eight points, but she's currently sidelined with injured shins.

"She played a lot last year and she can score down low," Harrison said.

Low post play is a concern for Harrison, who lost 13 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game with the graduation of Brown.

"I don't have any height," Harrison said.

The coach is hoping to get senior Ivie Foster (5-8) or juniors Symone Grant (5-8) and Gracy Onuma (5-8) to blossom in the paint since they are his tallest options right now.

"I'm 6-foot and the ones taller than me are on jayvee and they have never played this year," Harrison said. "But, I'm telling you, in two years, if they stay with me, even next year, hopefully, people will be ready to step up."

Harrison is in his 14th season as varsity coach and for four straight years during that span, he didn't even have a junior varsity.

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He built the program up by creating a positive environment on and off the court.

"I try to teach camaraderie and teamwork and we bond a lot," said the coach, who takes his team to see college teams during the season. "We do 10 college visits a year."

Included are three overnight visits, including a popular one to Mount St. Mary's, in Emmitsburg.

"We go to Mount St. Mary's every year because it is close and there is a movie theater right by the hotel and that is really good," he said. "It's to get them ready to go to college because it's going to be like that in college."

The squad, which also includes senior Britaney Harris (5-5), junior Jamonie Lindsey (5-3), sophomore Andrea Hammonds (5-1) and freshman Taychaun Hubbard 5-6), hopes to make a bright pink splash for the home opener against High Point on Tuesday, Dec. 9 when the junior varsity plays at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity game follows at 7:15 p.m.

"I'm going to have a pink out game," Harrison said. "We are going to try to get as many people in here because we don't get a lot of people supporting girls basketball, so that is my goal, to get a lot of people in here to support it and see what it's like."

He can give you a glimpse of what the team will be like early in the season as they continue to learn more plays.

"We are young, but we are going to be aggressive," Harrison said. "I'm pretty confident, but we still have a long way to go."

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