Northeast girls basketball coach Calvin Vain tried his hardest not to rush senior Stephanie Lazor back from a knee injury suffered duringthe spring.
In the end, only a reoccurance of the ailment could get her off the floor.
The 5-foot-11 forward played nearly every minute of every game until reinjuring the knee late in the season and missing the Class 2A Region III playoffs. She led the Eagles in scoring and was second to Debbie Dadds in rebounding, while also providing leadership and inspiration to a team that came within two games of returning to the statetournament.
"She sets such a good example to the other players," Vain said of Lazor, the Anne Arundel County Sun's Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
"She didn't miss a practice until the third weekof her fourth year, and she plays the same way in practice as she does in the games. And she's so coachable. There's never a comment or aroll of theeyes when you're showing her things. The other kids learnto respect that.
"Sometimes that's more important than points."
Lazor provided plenty of those as well, averaging more than 16 a game.
She topped the 1,000-point mark for her career -- including one season on the junior varsity level -- on Feb. 15 in a 48-37 victoryover South River. She also went over 1,000 career rebounds against the Seahawks, making the evening twice as memorable.
"I never thought I would ever do something like that," she said. "It never came into my mind, I never thought that would be me. That night, with the support of everyone, was a great feeling."
Vain was a huge supporter of Lazor long before then -- and long before she had worked to rehabilitate the knee after tearing a ligament in the 2A state softball final.
"As far as coachability and an all-around rounded player, Stephanie is the best I've ever coached," he said. "Right now, the most dominant scorer I've had was Judy Sorrill at Annapolis,
who averaged around 26 points (in 1981). But Stephanie ranks right up with her."
Having averaged 11 points a game last winter, Lazor knew she had to assume more of the scoring role after the Eagles lost Monica Everett to graduation and senior guard Kristy Zulka to a knee injury.
The status of teammate Tammy Kuebel also was uncertain after the senior guard fractured her ankle, leaving the Northeast backcourt in a shambles.
"I knew I had to help the guards out a lot -- passing the ball and moving it around -- because they were young," she said. "And knowing Kristy wasn't there, I knew I had to score more and try to dothe things she did at the guard position. I was all over the place. I didn't stay in one position."
That helps explain her team-leading 91 assists (4.1 a game) and 89 steals (4.0). She also averaged 14.5rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game.
The Eagles were at full strength when Lazor went down in the season's final game against visiting Frederick on Feb. 22. She sat out a 45-19 region-quarterfinal win over Chopticon and a 52-48 loss to Frederick Douglass.
"It was my senior year, and I didn't even get to finish the season," she said, the disappointment still apparent in her voice.
"When we lost to Douglass by four points, I was thinking if I was playing, we would have won and made it to the finals. I just wish I could have helped them make it."
Lazor still found a way to contribute, even in street clothes.
"She was still on the bench, getting water for us during timeouts," Vain said. "It's not beneath her to do something like that. And some of the things she said in the huddle were things I was about to say."
Vain has plenty to say about the intangibles that make Lazor such a difficult player to defend.
"She actually lets the game come to her," he said. "Some players have to take the three-point shot, and some know they have to post up, but she has a variety of shots, like a one-handed running shot and a hook shot. She shoots from the outside and she shoots from the post. She takes what the other teams give her."
This season, Stephanie Lazor took full advantage of her opportunity to become the best player in the county.