BOYS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Perhaps there is no harder worker in Carroll County boys basketball than Carr, who led the Owls to the county title by averaging 13 points, three assists and three rebounds. When practice is over, Carr usually travels to the YMCA to work on his game, most often by himself.
Owls coach Brett Kanther says that Carr "gives to the game," understanding that the more hard work and effort he puts into basketball, the more he will get back. It's that philosophy that helped Carr make tremendous strides from his sophomore season. A consummate team player, he often passed up open looks at the basket to dish the ball off to teammates.
He capped off the regular season on a tear, scoring 22 points to lead his team to a big win over North Carroll -- a team the Owls had lost to earlier with Carr out of the lineup -- as well as 19 against Linganore and 24 against South Carroll.
BOYS COACH OF THE YEAR
Kanther took over the coaching reigns at Westminster this season following several years as JV coach at Baltimore County's Eastern Tech. Despite having to build his staff from scratch, the 30-year-old managed to guide the young Owls to the Carroll County title, beating out the likes of North Carroll and Liberty. They also were the county's highest-finishing team in the tough Central Maryland Conference, going 8-8, and went on to post 11 wins against what might be the county's toughest schedule, which included Calvert Hall and Prospect Hall.
Kanther, who grew up in Bucks County, Pa. and attended Penn State, went into this season with a dual purpose -- try to win now, yet also build for the future. He accomplished both. His team not only met its preseason goals of finishing at least .500 and winning the county, but with a trio of top guards returning, seems primed to take its game to an even higher level next season, possibly becoming one of the elite teams in the expanded Monocacy Valley Athletic League.
BOYS FIRST TEAM
Francis Scott Key, senior
Despite playing with a sprained ankle from football that cost him five games and nagged him throughout the season, Bassler still managed to average 14.5 points and 9.2 rebounds, staking out a place as the best big man in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League. An All-Metro tight end in football who will continue his gridiron career at West Virginia, the 6-foot-5 center was a dominant force inside for the Eagles. Few opponents could stop his power moves, and he further improved his game by developing the ability to play with his back to the basket.
One of the area's top running backs during the fall, Costley continued his success on the hardwood, averaging 10 points, four rebounds and 2.1 assists for the county champion Owls. A strong, physical guard who can post up or drive the lane with equal effectiveness, the guard attacked the rim better than almost anyone in the county. Whenever he had a shot altered or blocked, he never hesitated in taking the ball back up strong in an effort to finish the play. He scored a career-high 23 points in his team's win over South Carroll.
He averaged double figures in both points and rebounds in county games, helping the Lions, who had gone 5-41 over the past two seasons, finish 5-2 in Carroll County. He ranked third in the county by hitting 47 percent of his field-goal attempts, including nearly a third of his three-pointers. Liberty coach Steve Johnson calls DeChant, who averaged 10.2 points and 7.1 rebounds, the hardest worker on his team.
The 6-foot-4 forward emerged as one of the top players in Carroll County this season and the centerpiece of the young Knights. He led the county by averaging 16.9 points, showing a propensity to score inside and outside, in addition to grabbing 7.3 rebounds a game. He hit 45 percent of his shots from the field while drawing constant double teams, and also made more than 69 percent of his free throws.
North Carroll, senior
This 6-foot-1 forward was a key reason why North Carroll was able to post 13 wins, leading the team in rebounds (8.8 a game) and field-goal percentage (59 percent), and taking second in scoring (11.3) steals (2.2) and free-throw percentage (63 percent). The high point of his season came in a 61-44 win over eventual county champion Westminster, when he scored 17 on 8-for-13 shooting and pulled down a season-high 17 rebounds.
North Carroll, senior
Reese was a consistent force throughout the season for the Panthers, leading the team with 13.7 points a game. The forward shot 53 percent from the field, including 9-for-17 from three-point range, and pulled down 8.6 rebounds a game. A leader on and off the court, the 6-foot-2 Reese always played with emotion and intensity, particularly in a 59-52 upset win over Central Maryland Conference power Frederick. In that game, he scored 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds and four steals and went 6-for-6 from the line.
GIRLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
In a challenging season, Bollinger more than met the task to earn her second straight Player of the Year honor. She averaged 13 points and 9.1 rebounds a game, at times using her 6-foot-1 frame, quick moves and nice shooting touch to dominate in the middle.
Her value to the Owls became more evident following the suspension of nine of her teammates for the remainder of the season in mid-January. With the season in jeopardy, Bollinger and remaining team members Natasha Morrison and Carmen Fajardo stepped up to help then-coach Dick Ebersole quickly get the team back on the court after forfeiting just one game.
After Ebersole resigned near midseason, Bollinger helped a squad comprised mainly of JV call-ups win a share of the county title and upset then-No. 11 Chesapeake in the Class 4A East quarterfinals.
GIRLS COACH OF THE YEAR
Few if any players on Beard's team considered basketball their primary sport. Still, the coaching veteran managed to lead the Knights -- in their first year of varsity competition -- to a share of the Carroll County title. Despite some problems shooting the ball, they were competitive with every team they played, and performed better than most expected.
Beard coached boys basketball at Randallstown beginning in the mid-1980s and also had brief stints as coach of the Randallstown girls and Pikesville boys before coaching freshman football and boys basketball at Hanover (Pa.) High for seven years starting in 1992.
Last year, he took the reins of Century's girls basketball program, which spent its inaugural season at the JV level. Despite seeing plenty of success that first season, Beard knew that stepping up to the varsity level with a squad comprised entirely of juniors and sophomores would be a challenge, but it was one he relished.
GIRLS FIRST TEAM
Harman, who played point guard and small forward, was an outstanding defensive player who drew the opposing team's top perimeter player each game. Despite averaging just 4.4 points a game, she was a floor leader for the Lions. Starting all but one game, she led Liberty in minutes and three-point percentage (40 percent), was second in rebounds (4.1 a game) and steals (1.4 a game) and third in assists (1.7 a game).
Basketball may be her third sport, but the soccer and lacrosse standout was still one of the county's best on the hardwood. The 5-foot-5 guard averaged eight points a game and used her exceptional quickness to average 3.1 steals. One of the county's top defenders, she usually guarded the top perimeter scoring threat of the opposing team. Kasper, who played last season at South Carroll, provided a veteran presence on a young squad, helping it gain a share of the county title. She earned county Player of the Year honors in soccer last fall, leading the Knights to a state title.
South Carroll, junior
South Carroll coach Nicole Freeman describes O'Connell as a "very peppy, energetic person." It showed on the court, as the 5-foot-11 forward averaged 5.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.9 steals and three blocks for the Cavaliers, who improved throughout the season to become one of the county's top teams. Defense was her strong point, never giving an inch in the post and frequently stepping into opponents' passing lanes, creating turnovers that led to fast-break baskets.
A soccer standout in the fall for the state champion Knights, Psenicska emerged as Century's most consistent scorer in basketball, averaging 8.9 points. Though the 5-foot-7 guard/forward did her best offensive work from the perimeter, she usually was forced by circumstance to guard the opposing team's top inside player. Despite often giving up several inches in height, she most often did the job, helping Century field one of the county's top defenses. This was her first varsity season after playing JV at Century last year and at Liberty as a freshman.
North Carroll, senior
Shirey, a three-year starter for the Panthers, led the county by averaging 15.2 points, in addition to 8.4 rebounds. Never was her presence in the post more dominating then in a win over Francis Scott Key, when she had 26 points and 20 rebounds. The forward scored at least 21 points on seven occasions despite facing constant double and triple teams. She finished her high school career with 806 career points and 521 rebounds. She was second-team All-County a year ago.
Francis Scott Key, junior
A second-team selection last season, the forward became one of the county's top inside players this winter, averaging 9.8 points and 7.9 rebounds. At 6 feet tall, Stambaugh possesses a deft inside touch as well as an accurate turnaround jumper, with range up to 15 feet. She led the team in scoring and rebounding for the second straight year and posted several double doubles. She scored a season-high 21 in a 49-42 win over South Hagerstown. Stambaugh also is a standout in volleyball and softball.