The spotlight is often cast elsewhere, typically focusing on their varsity counterparts, but for junior varsity athletes the rewards for hard work and dedication are no less significant.
In fact, considering these JV players serve as the building blocks for the varsity squads in coming years, the development and growth of these individuals is often what sets many programs up for future success.
This winter, Howard County featured plenty of budding stars honing their craft on JV teams. There were highlight plays, exciting games, standout players and, most importantly, lessons learned to prepare the athletes for a potential move up to varsity in coming seasons.
We contacted each school, through its athletic administrators, and asked for information on their JV teams. Here's what we heard back:
It was a rollercoaster season for Atholton, which finished with a 9-11 record. But there were some definite highlights, including a 58-43 victory over River Hill and a 69-63 win in a tight game against Marriotts Ridge.
The team's top two players on the year were Jasen Parkins at guard and Skylar Rankin at center.
Centennial finished 17-5 and was one of the top teams in the county.
"The beginning of the year posed some challenges because of our relative inexperience, having 12 players who were new to the Centennial program," coach Chris Sanders said. "With that said, once the teaching takes place and after the players get some game experience, the rest takes care of itself."
Kaleb Addisu (16.1 PPG and 6.4 RPG), Alex Fant (8.9 RPG) and Sean Taylor (4.9 APG) led the offense, while Stevie Sedlacko, Andrew Hohmann, Ryan Maher, Jordan Fields, Shawn Hill and Alex Crocamo were other top players.
"The enjoyment comes from the development and watching players adjust to a steep learning curve," Sanders said. "Initially it is a struggle, but the players figure it out. We expect a lot from our players and are proud of our style of play."
Glenelg won five straight games to end the season and finished with a 14-7 record.
"There was a lot of energy surrounding the team throughout the season that should be carried into the offseason and the future," coach Joseph Osborne said.
Although seven different players led the team in points throughout the season, sophomores Jeffrey Powell (9.6 PPG, 9.57 RPG) and Tommy Walsh (9.6 PPG, 5 RPG) topped the offensive stat sheet.
Defensively, Ryan Dry, Josh Heigh and Walsh helped the team force an average of 23 turnovers per game.
A highlight during the season was when sophomore Chris Currie nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Reservoir in overtime.
Hammond only returned one player from the 2013-14 season, so experience was a factor the Golden Bears had a tough time overcoming.
Still, coach Stephen Guest said his team improved each game and it culminated in the team's only win over Mt. Hebron.
"Our guys clicked on all cylinders that game and pulled off a great win," Guest said.
Connor Martin, who dominated on defense, and Tysean Berry, who averaged eight rebounds per game, led the team, while Paskell Cheeves and Kendall Broome also contributed.
Howard coach Nils Schroder said his team may have underachieved a little bit going 7-12, but added the Lions were competitive in almost every game.
Freshman Andrew Blanco averaged about seven points per game, and sophomore Bryson Craven scored about 10 points and averaged five rebounds a game.
"There is a solid foundation for the guys playing JV next year as well as the guys moving up to varsity," Schroder said.
Although Marriotts Ridge went 8-13, they were seemingly in every game as the team's point differential was less than five points per game late in the season.
The Mustangs were led by sophomore David Longard, who shot nearly 40 percent from three and averaged 12 points per game, and freshman Mike Curtain, who led the team in all categories before being pulled up to the varsity squad.
Cam Heard, Matt Berquist, Luke Ingersol and Eli Turner also contributed heavily to the team's success.
Against Mt. Hebron, Heard nailed a shot with one second remaining to give the Mustangs a 54-52 lead, and they also played one of their best games in a one-point loss to Centennial.
After starting the season 1-8, Mt. Hebron ended the season by winning nine of its final 13 games, to finish 10-12.
"Much of the teams success can be attributed to the team's growth in making the most of every practice and learning how to win close games," said coach Kelly Caprarola. "The last few games were exciting because they included close wins over two rivals and, in the last game of the season, every player scored."
The leaders for the Vikings were Matthew Shriver (10.3 PPG, 2.5 SPG) and Nathan Johnson (8.3 PPG, 6 RPG), while Brooks Pearce, Chris Bates, Yassin Omer and Malik Islam also helped the offense.
Like the varsity squad, Oakland Mills was a top team in the county, finishing 16-4.
"This team was a great example of a team working together to achieve the same goal," coach Julian Allen said. "There were several talented basketball players on the team, but they all sacrificed for the sake of the team. With no one averaging double-digits, the team was able to average 50 PPG and finish with the best JV record in Howard County."
Jordan Tarver and Rickey Rondon both averaged nine points per game, while Jordan Hopkins pitched in eight per contest.
Highlights include Brian Wheelock scoring 18 points, securing 10 rebounds and throwing down a dunk against Long Reach, and when Jordan Tarver nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat River Hill, 50-47.
"Evan Riss, Jordan Hopkins and Rickey Rondon were great captains and leaders all year," Allen said. "Freshman Harrison Greggs and Ronald Schjang also put forth great efforts all year long."
With tons of leadership, Wilde Lake was one of the best teams in the county, going 14-5.
"Throughout the season, the team experienced many challenges," said coach Pete Bergin. "They responded to adversity by supporting each other, sticking together, and practicing and playing with passion."
Before being pulled up to varsity, team captains Marquis Bullett and Brian Robinson "respectfully set the business-like tone for each practice and game. They pushed their teammates every day to work hard to build and strengthen their skills," Bergin said.
David Funderburk and Gerald Van Tassell led the rebounding effort, while Ricardo Green, John Kent and Donovan Aybar also contributed.
A highlight of the season came against Reservoir, when the Wildecats battled back from a 20-point deficit at halftime to force overtime.
"The team's sense of urgency, pride, and grit to fight back and not to give up became their performance hallmarks for the rest of the season," Bergin said.
With nine freshmen and four sophomores, Chapelgate went 15-8 and tied for first place in the red division of the MIAA B Conference.
Jalen Morant led the team in points and assists, while Clifton McEachin led the team in rebounding, steals and blocks. Montaz McCray finished second on the team in scoring and rebounding.
A highlight from the season was beating Montrose Christian, 60-55.
"The team played great team basketball, moving the ball on offense with 19 assists, playing tough defense with 38 rebounds and 8 steals," coach Christopher Tringali said.
It was a very strong season for Atholton, which finished 15-3 with a team featuring four sophomores and eight freshmen. The team's only losses came against Howard (twice) and River Hill.
Sofia Harrison finished as the team's top scorer with an average of 17 points per game. She also shot 82 percent from the foul line. Other standouts included top defenders Kelly Flynn and Alison Orlosky, along with top rebounder Bryce Bathras.
Centennial didn't finish with a winning record, going 8-13, but coach Billy Martin said his team showed a lot of improvement over the course of the season.
Out of 14 players on the team, 12 were freshmen.
"This season was a learning process for most," Martin said. "The girls showed tremendous improvement by improving their intensity, focus and effort. These are the keys to them reaching their potential in the future."
Centennial was led by Hailey Hamshey, who scored 7.6 points per game, and Gracie Rockefeller, who averaged 5.4 points per game.
A highlight in the season was against Century in the Big Doug Classic. The Eagles led most of the game before falling behind late, but Mia Smith hit a last-second layup to force overtime.
"When the game went to overtime, the girls played to their full potential and won the game, 44-33," Martin said. "This five-minute overtime may have been the best the girls played all season."
Glenelg went 20-6 overall, losing only three games in county play.
Several point guards — Gabby Rachuba, Anna Callahan and Bobbie Haney — and forward Maddie O'Brien, led the Gladiators.
Coach Scott Dingman said the team's first win over Centennial was a win to remember because it "gave us confidence and showed our potential."
Hammond went 6-14, but had one of the top players in Gabi Abel, who averaged 10.1 points per game.
"Although the win column was somewhat lacking, the girls demonstrated perseverance and commitment," coach Shannon Grieve said. "Consistency was difficult for us all season long, but their knowledge of the game and skills continually improved."
The Golden Bears had notable victories over River Hill and Reservoir, and Vicki Howard and Samantha Mesol, who averaged 9.2 rebounds per game, led the defensive effort.
Howard returned just three starters from the 2013-14 team that went undefeated, but those three players — Samantha Sagi, Allison Campbell, and Gabriella Sanchez-Henry — led the Lions to another unbeaten season at 19-0.
The team had several freshmen contribute to the perfect season as well.
"Freshmen Madison Eich, Tyauna Bailey and Jessica Vetter, (we) thrust them into starting positions, while the supporting cast off the bench, Sarah Hauk, Alexander Wieman, Elesha Jackson, Madison Savje, Sarah Regal and Caroline Von Neida all continued learn the fundamentals and play hard each night," coach James Stewart said.
The highlight of the season came against Wilde Lake when the Lions came from behind and nailed a buzzer-beater to keep their undefeated season alive.
Long Reach, led by captains Sydney Foremen, Alex Rivera and Kasey White, and leading scorers Sroda Coleman and Kayla Rudd, finished the season 13-4.
"We had a very successful season," said coach Maureen Shacreaw.
Marriotts Ridge lost one of its best players, Natalie Antista, early in the season because of an injury, but the Mustangs still went 16-6.
First-year coach David Bond said the team defense was a strong point this season.
"The girls worked very hard to play good defense and work together as a unit in doing so. The improvement from the start of the season to the end was amazing," Bond said. "The team really came together as a unit and really played good basketball."
Hope Morath led the team in scoring with 212 points, while Hannah Berquist (126) and Riley Murtha (115) also were strong scorers.
A highlight of the season was taking undefeated Howard to the brink of defeat.
"The game was within a couple of points up to the very end when Howard was able to hit some key free throws to seal the victory," Bond said. "The team really played well and gave a very strong Howard team a battle."
Mt. Hebron finished the season 11-11, but avenged four earlier losses in the final four games of the season.
Coach Dennis Kelliher said the team hit its stride at the end of the year, and that the most exciting game of the year came in a two-point victory over Wilde Lake. Julia Lamparella, the team's most improved player, nailed a last-second shot to seal the win.
"The team was led by captains Lexi Arens and Sydney Krell, and Jennifer Schaaf received MVP honors by leading the team in scoring, rebounds and foul shot percentage," Kelliher said. "Every player contributed to our success and proved that with hard work and dedication you can achieve your goals."
Reservoir didn't have the most success, going 4-16, but coach James Mackin said every player scored in a game twice this season.
The Gators were led by freshman guard Ashley Gray, who led the team with 78 points, and sophomore guard Cassidy Pham, who scored 69.
"As a team, we improved throughout the season and developed our teamwork," Mackin said.
River Hill went 15-6 and was one of the top teams in the county.
The Hawks were led by freshman Sarah Dawit, who averaged 9.7 points per game.
"Sarah's tenacity, combined with her ability to involve her teammates was crucial to our team's success," River Hill coach Brittany Coughlan said. "Sarah and freshman Erica Fenton, who averaged 4.2 PPG, were a dynamic duo in the backcourt. Sophomore co-captains Owen Dannelly and Victoria Koutras proved themselves as assets this season, as they added 8 PPG and 4.3 PPG, respectively, along with positive leadership."
Season highlights included an eight-point win over Atholton, one of the best teams in the county, and avenging two earlier losses to Marriotts Ridge.
Wilde Lake went 5-14, but showed promise as five of those losses were by five points or less.
The Wildecats had several sophomores that stood out and could make noise on varsity next season.
"Our leading players were sophomores Kiarra Lewis-Turnbo and Tess Kostelec," coach Lisa Compofelice said. "Kiarra averaged 14 points per game with a high of 26 points against Hammond. She was our leading scorer and rebounder."
A highlight of the season was against Howard, when the Wildecats led by two points late before the Lions nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win.
River Hill went 15-0 and 11-0 in county duals to finish unbeaten. The Hawks were led by captains Brad Smith (170 pounds) and county-champion Brent Essman (195). Colin Altman (138) and Zach Wasilewski (132) also won county titles, while Andrew Murray (160) finished second. Smith took third, and Billy Szeliga (113), Gabe Vinyard (106) and Kai Uecker (170) finished fourth at the county championships.
Howard County JV Tournament championship results:
106: Daquan Anderson (OM) dec. Yahir Lemus (MH) 8-4; 113: Alex Abbate (A) dec. John Lian (Ha) 9-7 OT; 120: Connor Tayman (Re) dec. Jamison Hulbert (MH) 9-6; 126: Kyle Williamson (Ho) major dec. Savya Konkalmatt (C) 8-0; 132: Darren Yang (MR) pinned Zach Wasilewski (RH) 2:00; 138: Colin Altman (RH) pinned Marquis Thompson (OM) :32; 145: Caleb Wyatt (MR) major dec. Kamyar Rasouli (MH) 11-0; 152: Anthony Radar (OM) dec. Mark Bailey (A) 2-1; 160: Mulbah Kamara (OM) dec. Andrew Murray (RH) 7-6; 170: Brian O'Neal (MH) dec. Jubril Bello (OM) 3-2; 182: Roy Gomez (OM) dec. Shahin Manasterli (MH) 2-1 OT; 195: Brent Essman (RH) dec. Zach Travitz (OM) 8-4; 220: Nick Palaganas (G) dec. Joe Naidu (MR) 6-3 OT; 285: Kevin Rockwell (OM) dec. Kyle Boothe (OM) 1-0.