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Long Reach's Gomez adjusting to new role


Long Reach senior guard Timisha Gomez handles many roles. Scorer, rebounder, defender - she has fulfilled each duty for her team.

But Gomez is still getting used to a new title: counselor.

As one of three players who have been starting for the Lightning for the past four seasons, Gomez has watched her younger teammates make the same mistakes she made, and she's more than willing to offer tips on how to avoid repeating them.

But it's a job description that is still growing on Gomez.

"It's been interesting, because I can see in some of the players how I used to play, and they're still in the process of gaining more experience," she said. "I know I have a knowledge of basketball, and I guess I knew I would contribute what I know, but I never thought I'd be the one to go to."

That Gomez has become a source of information shouldn't be that surprising. After all, the 5-foot-8, two-time Street & Smith's preseason honorable mention All-American has scored a school-record 1,395 career points and will play at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia after graduation in May.

This winter, Gomez is averaging 16.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.6 steals and 3.3 assists a game. She recently overtook River Hill junior center Brittany Gordon as Howard County's top public-schools scorer.

For Gomez, the basketball court is her office.

"I feel like I've got to go to work. That's my motto," she said. "If I go to work and do what I need to do, the points will come, the steals will come, and the rebounds will come."

Gomez, along with seniors Whitney Ward and Lytia Blackmon, has helped revitalize a Long Reach program that had accumulated just 29 wins between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons.

With Gomez, the Lightning are 55-36, including 20-2 this winter. Long Reach, which is ranked No. 13 in the Baltimore area, wrapped up its county schedule with an 18-2 record - the school's best showing ever - and a No. 3 seed and first-round bye in the Class 3A East region playoffs.

Gomez's performances have carried even greater weight since the team learned last week that it will journey through the playoffs without Ward because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.

When Ward, who had been averaging 12.9 points a game, went down on Feb. 4, Gomez acknowledged a sense of burden on her shoulders.

"There was pressure for me to score after Whitney got hurt," Gomez said. "She's a great player. She gets rebounds, she goes to the foul line, she can score. So having to put up more points is stress in and of itself."

Lightning coach Kevin Broadus said he noticed that change in Gomez's style of play. But rather than ask her to put up more points, Broadus said he stressed teamwork.

"She took it personally that she had to score more points, but that took away from her steals and assists," said Broadus, who estimates that Gomez's all-around contributions can account for as much as a 20-point swing in games. "When she realized that she did have some other players on the team that could actually play, she ended up getting more assists."

The strategy appears to have worked. Since a 46-42 upset to unranked Centennial on Feb. 7, Long Reach closed out the season with five straight victories, due in large part to Gomez's comfort level with her teammates.

Outings like those from sophomore forwards Jillian Allen (16 points in a four-point win against then-No. 15 Glenelg on Feb. 10) and Carlie Nethken (24 points in a three-point overtime victory over Hammond on Feb. 12) have buoyed Gomez's hopes for continued success in the playoffs, which begin today.

"I'd like to see us go to regionals, win regionals, go to states, and win states because we've never gone that far in Long Reach history," she said. "I think we can do it."

Until then, Gomez will continue directing the Lightning and playing a role in the development of the program's future.

"I'm here, and I'll give what I have," she said. "I have to step it up and bring that level of leadership."

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