Marriotts Ridge Girls Basketball Enjoying Breakout Season
For the Marriotts Ridge girls basketball team, this has been as exciting a season as the program has had in recent memory.
The Mustangs had struggled in recent years, only winning five games in each of the past two seasons. To head coach Caitlin Reese, the Mustangs were improving from her first season at Marriotts Ridge three years ago when the team won just three games. That season, Marriotts Ridge wasn't very competitive, but that began to change during her second year in charge. By last year, the Mustangs played a plethora of close games, but struggled to find ways to win.
It's been a different story this season- Marriotts Ridge is 15-6, topping some of Howard County's winning teams in Glenelg and Mt. Hebron along the way.
"As a coach, I cannot explain how rewarding it is to see these girls having fun day in and day out. I have been fortunate to coach some great kids since I have been here and our teams have been able to get along and have fun, but this year is different because we're winning games," Reese said. "The girls are seeing how their hard work is paying off. We are winning because of them- their ability to maintain focus at practice and in games, the way they execute defensively game after game and most importantly, the way they give 150-percent no matter what the score is."
A major reason for Marriotts Ridge's success this season has been its defense. In 15 games this season, the Mustangs have limited opponents to 40 points or less. Marriotts Ridge's record in those games is 14-1.
It's an aspect of the game that Marriotts Ridge has had a grasp on since the first whistle of this season. The Mustangs won their first seven games and in each contest, Marriotts Ridge limited its opponents to less than 40 points.
It was a completely different start than the previous two seasons when Marriotts Ridge began its campaigns with extended losing streaks. While each victory was big to the Mustangs, their win against Glenelg was particularly exciting.
"Getting that win early this year, knowing we beat a team who had won a state championship the previous year, gave us the confidence we needed to go out each game and expect to win," Reese said. "From there, we gained momentum because the girls finally realized what they were capable of doing on the court."
On the court, the Mustangs have been relying on the contributions of many to find ways to win.
Senior forward Sarah Blalock and senior guard Caroline Blalock have been the team's go to scorers. Sarah Blalock has averages 12.89 points per game, while Caroline Blalock has contributed 11.94 points per game. Junior forward Hope Morath has been a monster on the boards for Marriotts Ridge, averaging close to 10 rebounds a game while also chipping in 6.1 points per game.
Sophomore Mallory Conroy is versatile and capable of playing either guard or forward. She is averaging 6.6 points a game, while senior guard Casey Sullivan and senior forward Caitlin Ohnmacht have really embraced the group's emphasis on defense. Sullivan covers the opposing team's top guard, while Ohnmacht provides a big spark off the bench for the Mustangs, and routinely guards the opposition's best forward.
While the team has done quite well individually, it's the way the group has approached the game that's made the difference in Reese's eyes.
"Sometimes if you watch us play, you can't tell if we are winning by 20, or losing by 20. They are always going to play hard and dive for loose balls," Reese said. "This year, that kind of hustle and determination has been the difference in some of the closer games we've won."
The team's play forced the coaching staff to reexamine its goals for the season midway through the campaign. Originally the goals were to finish with a .500 record, earn a home game in the playoffs and beat Marriotts Ridge's biggest rival, Mt. Hebron. Reese and her coaches decided to push the bar even higher by having the Mustangs aim for a bye in the first round.
Marriotts Ridge has one more regular season game to play, and it looks like the team has the home bye it was aiming for.
"My assistant coach, Dave Appleby, and I had really high expectations coming into this season and the girls knew it," Reese said. "All they needed was someone telling them they were capable, someone believing in them- they did the rest."
|February 17th, 2017||By: Wick Eisenberg|