Girls basketball: Team previews -- Gazette.Net


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Previews of Frederick and Urbana are elsewhere.

Brunswick Railroaders

Coach: Gaylene Smith-Gardner, 6th year

Last year: 7-16

Outlook: Coming off a disappointing 2010-11 campaign, the Brunswick High School girls basketball team is looking to rebound this season. Guard Tara Shriver, Ashley Axline and Leanna Green are the only seniors coach Gaylene Smith-Gardner will have back. Shriver and Green will see time at both guard and forward and Axline is a guard. Also returning are Dara Demich, Morgan Laing and Melanie Yoemans. Demich and Yoemans are guards, with the former being a junior and the latter a sophomore. Laing is a junior center. Other juniors include Aleyna Fitz (forward/guard), Alyssa Smith-Henry (forward/guard), Kayla Johnson (guard), Bae Walters (forward) and Victoria Lohman (guard).

— Todd McElwee

Catoctin Cougars

Coach: Amy Murray Entwistle, sixth year

Last year: 15-7

Outlook: Catoctin is about to get off and running in its first season as a Class 2A outfit. “We are very quick, so we will look to push the ball as much as possible,” coach Amy Murray Entwistle said. “We pride ourselves on our intense man-to-man defense. Overall, this team is very positive, unselfish and has a great work ethic.” Catoctin returns four senior starters: Tara Woelfel (guard), Erin Phelan (guard), Kendall Zickefoose (guard/forward) and Caroline Grossweiler (forward). Senior Kelsey Phelan, a guard, was one of the first players off the bench last year and should again play a key role. Woelfel was an All-Gazette second teamer last winter and averaged 13.5 points per game. Sophomores Courtney Clemons and Amanda Hackney, both guards, made varsity as freshmen. Junior Mackenzie Smith is a post player, fellow juniors Stephanie Andrew, Hailey Craig and Brooke Harig should be in the rotation. Catoctin finished at 15-7 last season as a 1A team. The Cougars lost to Smithsburg in the Class 1A West Region semifinals. “We have never competed at the 2A level before, so we are extremely excited to get the opportunity to do so,” Murray Entwistle said. “We hope to compete for the conference title, along with proving that we can be a threat at the 2A level.”

— Todd McElwee

Gov. Thomas Johnson Patriots

Coach: Darryl Whiten, third year

Last year: 10-11

Outlook: Blessed by a deep talent pool, Gov. Thomas Johnson should improve on last year’s 10-11 mark. “It’s a new day,” coach Darryl Whiten said. “All of the girls get along with one another. The leadership is very good. There’s just a sense of family. You couldn’t ask for much from 12 individuals who are playing and working so hard for us each. Our motto is ‘We’re all pieces of the puzzle.’” The Patriots lost a handful of close games last year, dropping them just below .500. Now, with more talent to go around, they hope to close out some of those contests. “Every possession matters and that’s one of the things we’re going to have to carry throughout the season, particularly in close games,” Whiten said. “I know we have the capability to do those things this year.” Junior combo guards Bailey Griffin and JaeShon Swan are back to run the show for TJ. “Our guard play with Griffin and JaeShon coming back after pretty much starting all of last year is going to be strong for us,” Whiten said. Senior Jordan Goodfriend and sophomores Katie Wareham and classmate Troniqua Black also return. Whiten said a slew of promising junior varsity players have moved up, including junior Shelley Morse.

— Todd McElwee

Linganore Lancers

Coach: Brian Matthews

Last year: 17-7

Outlook: After receiving All-Gazette honorable mention last season, scoring a team-high 11 points in Linganore’s final playoff game and recording a quadruple-double in a February victory over South Hagerstown, Meghan Martin returns. She’s one of just two seniors on the team, joining Erica Rothe. Linganore’s five juniors, four sophomores and a freshman will attempt to replace the eight departing seniors, four of whom — Samantha Buls, Lexi Kebetz, Angela Scardapane and Paige Eckard — started last year. With a 16-6 regular-season record last year, Linganore secured the No. 3 seed in the 3A West. After a bye and a 71-58 second-round win over unseeded Quince Orchard, Linganore fell to Damascus, 44-32, in the semifinal of the 3A West, the region that produced state-champion Frederick. Linganore is attempting to win its fourth state title and first since winning back-to-back championships in 1996 (2A) and 1997 (3A).

— Dan Feldman

Maryland School for the Deaf

Coach: Amy Mowl, third year

Last year: 19-10

Outlook: The Maryland School for the Deaf girls basketball team is looking to do more than just win Deaf Prep National championships this season. “This season I expect our increased focus in conditioning and time spent in the weight room will help us play four good quarters and finish games strongly,” Orioles coach Amy Mowl said. “With a talented and smart group of players, I expect us to really have our players learn the game of basketball on a much deeper and intricate level that would prepare them to play basketball on higher levels.” MSD has won six national titles (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010). Starting shooting guard Claire Tucker graduated and is playing for Gallaudet University. Mowl brings back a lot of talent. Returning starters include senior power forward Augusta Seremeth, juniors guards Tarja Lewis at the point and Mia Goldberg on the wings as well as Rebecca Washington at forward. Freshman Tessa Lewis also has joined the starting lineup. Mowl calls her a sharp shooter and a natural shot-blocker. In addition to Tessa Lewis, three underclassmen have joined the rotation. Freshmen Emily DeSimone and Monet Clark and sophomore Jasmin Wilson should see a lot of time this season. “From what I've seen in practice and in our three scrimmages, we are a passionate, defensive-minded team,” Mowl said.

— Todd McElwee

Middletown Knights

Coach: Bill Miskell, ninth year

Last year: 21-6

Outlook: Middletown coach Bill Miskell knows a thing or two about young teams. Two seasons ago, he guided a team without a senior on the roster to 13 wins and a victory in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs. The tables turned last season as the senior-heavy Knights advanced to the 2A finals, where they lost to Calvert, 46-37. Now another youth movement has taken place, and Miskell is ready to go. “We’re pretty excited,” he said. “We’re not as good as we’ll be in February. We’re excited about the kids.” The Knights lost seven seniors, including four All-Gazette selections from last year’s 21-6 team. Twenty-nine of the 37 points they scored in the state finals were scored by players who have since graduated. Middletown has two seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and a pair of freshmen. Brittney George, a junior forward, and Caitlin Roy, a senior guard/forward, return and have been elected co-captains. Junior Connar Kelly was bumped up to the varsity team prior to the playoffs last year and will be one of Middletown’s point guards. Junior Catilin McLister also moved up last season and logged some minutes. Combo guard April Wright is Middletown’s other senior. Other backcourters include junior Gabrielle Riggs and sophomores Jess Racz and Megan Harne, as well as freshman Page Bussard. Up front, Miskell has Tisa Mullins, a junior and freshman Carly Tolino. “Even though we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, we’re not going to be scared to play them. We’re excited about it,” Miskell said.

— Todd McElwee

New Life Rams

Coach: Brian Roynestad, third year

Last year: 23-7

Outlook: When coach Brian Roynestad walked off the floor following his team’s Maryland Christian Schools Division II championship victory last year, he figured this year’s team would be favored to win its third straight Mason-Dixon Christian Conference title and rank among the top three small Christian schools in Maryland this season. “After that game, I actually talked about the fact that the target was going to be squarely on us for this year and that we were going to be huge favorites,” Roynestad said. But four players — three who started as juniors last year and a sophomore who would have started this season — left the team for a variety of reasons. Competing for at the state level might have gone out the door, but Roynestad still thinks his team will contend for a conference title. Senior Aileen Maknati has averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game during the past two years. Sophomore point guard Elizabeth Catoe also returns. Otherwise, New Life will be unexpectedly inexperienced.

— Dan Feldman

Oakdale Bears

Coach: Rob Healy, second year

Last year: 18-5

Outlook: For Oakdale, which opened last year for just freshmen and sophomores, the girls basketball team was a comparably veteran outfit. Five sophomores started, and each of them played junior varsity at their previous school. With all five returning for their junior year, Oakdale appears poised to be tough again. Forward Erica Buls, an All-Gazette honorable mention last season, averaged 12.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Healy said the 6-foot-3 Buls can play inside and out offensively and use her length to change games on the other end of the floor. “She uses her size very well,” Healy said. “She’s got great fundamentals.” Buls will be flanked by four talented guards. Point guard Olivia Spahr averaged 7 assists and 7 rebounds per game. Melanie Flatter defends the opponent’s top player, Healy said. She also averaged 5 points and 3 assists per game last year. Taylor McGaughey scored 10.3 points per game last year, most of them coming on 3-pointers. Dani Tunnel, who also can play forward, averaged 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. She also converted a team-best 69 percent of her free throws.

— Dan Feldman

St. John’s Vikings

Coach: Sheldon Henry, fifth year

Last year: 19-8

Outlook: In his first season as St. John’s coach, Sheldon Henry didn’t worry much about whether his team understood his schemes. This year, he feels the same way, but for a different reason. Four years ago, St. John’s had just seven players and went 1-19. With neither the talent to compete nor the numbers to scrimmage, Henry focused on individual skills. That set St. John’s on the right track, to the point it won the last two IAAM C League championships. Because it didn’t lose any players from last year’s team, St. John’s appears to be the favorite this season. Once again, Henry isn’t worried about his players picking up his schemes. “It’s absolutely easier, because they know all the plays,” Henry said. “We’ve done all the plays. They know how to run the plays. They’re understanding the intricacies of our plays. It makes it a lot easier to hit the ground running.” Junior Christine Hagan, a 6-foot-4 center who was named All-Gazette honorable mention last year, has garnered interest from the University of Delaware and the University of Richmond. She’ll be flanked in the starting lineup by senior guard Marial Pierce, senior forward Alexis Truxillo, junior point guard Shannon Greene and senior forward Meredith Jones. Four years after winning only one game, St. John’s has a complete and skilled lineup. “We’ve definitely come a long ways,” Henry said.

— Dan Feldman

South Carroll Cavaliers

Coach: Liz Padgett, seventh year

Last year: 18-5

Outlook: In each of the past six years, South Carroll’s record has improved from the previous season. Coach Liz Padgett said this year’s model isn’t specifically focused on besting last season’s 18-5 record to continue the streak. That must be what happens after establishing a level of play that includes winning the Carroll County championship the previous two years. “We have a high standard for working hard in practice and getting better during the season, and they know that,” she said. Senior guards Nikki Hein and Stacie Maring return as a starters. Senior guard Maggie Payne and junior forward Makeba Ndifang also appear set to play key roles. “We have a lot of options,” Padgett said. “We have a post that can score. We have some guards that can score. We have a lot of options to mix things up a little bit. It’s just a matter of blending those weapons. I look for us to be much better in January than when we start. We’ve got some young kids pulled up, so we need to give them time to jell with us.”

— Dan Feldman

Tuscarora Titans

Coach: Barry Weiser, second year

Last year: 12-12

Outlook: Young doesn’t begin to describe the Tuscarora girls basketball team. With underclassmen comprising the majority of the roster, the Titans will spend the season learning on the fly. “I have a very young team,” coach Barry Weiser said. “Sixty-four percent of my team is made up of freshmen and sophomores.” At one point last season, the Titans were 3-8. Coming on at the end, they finished .500 (12-12) for the first time in their existence and established 12 new program records. Tuscarora fell to eventual state-champion Frederick, 74-64, in the second round of the playoffs. Sophomore guard Shania Johnson is back to lead Tuscarora after earning an honorable mention All-Gazette mark last year. Sophomore Tori Jones and freshman Jaime Weiser also line up in the backcourt, as does junior Virginia Roby, who saw significant action in 2010-2011. At forward, the Titans have sophomores Lyric Forney, Taylor Johnson and Candice Berner along with junior Jayel Duvall and senior Courtney Brock. Senior Jenna Rimel and sophomore Katherine Moore play center. “The outlook of this team is very optimistic,” Weiser said.

— Todd McElwee