For two teams missing many key players from squads that made deep playoff runs last year, one might think that the Quince Orchard boys’ and girls’ basketball programs are facing rebuilding campaigns in 2017.
But don’t tell that to the boys, who think they have the talent and experience to get back to the state championships at Xfinity Center, where QO lost the title game by three points in overtime last season.
“We want to go back … and we just want to make sure that we finish it off and win this time,” said 6-3 senior co-captain Daniel Dorsey, the only returning starter from last year’s team.
And while the girls have lost six seniors from last year’s Lady Cougars who made it to the sectional finals, junior guard and co-captain Lindsay Michaels stressed, “We have the potential to excel this year and have a strong season.”
The Cougar boys must replace all-county performers Matthew Kelly and Johnny Fierstein and several key role players from the team that went 20-3 and shocked top-ranked Wise on their way to the finals, and Coach Paul Foringer recognizes the challenge ahead.
“We have a long way to go,” he said of this year’s squad that started the new year 4-3.
He praised Dorsey and returning seniors Jack Faraone, Niko Brown and John Bikim for their “great leadership. … They really seriously want to try to do something special like last year.” But, while “some of the younger players are very good basketball players … they don’t understand the system yet.”
Foringer is counting on major contributions from 6-6, 280-pound senior Mike Fierstein and juniors Cameron Garrett and Nahiem Howell from QO’s state finalist football team, but first they must shake off their gridiron muscles and round into basketball shape.
They “have a ways to go to get back into the flow of everything,” said Foringer, but he expects them to provide depth, size and athleticism when they’re ready. Garrett, a 6-2 junior, has been a “nice surprise.”
Foringer is pleased with how the team played in its preseason scrimmages and in most of their early contests. “All of the kids are sharing the ball and playing together; that’s the whole key to our success.”
He also expects this team to play more aggressive, “in-your-face defense” because of their athleticism.
Pressure defense and good ball movement were evident in QO’s recent 60-42 victory over Magruder. QO’s defense staked them to a 24-13 halftime lead, but Magruder’s long-range shooting brought them back to within three in the third quarter.
Then the youngest Cougars—sophomore Noah Adnan and freshman Alex Parisotto—stepped up, keying the defense and combining for 10 of QO’s 21 fourth-quarter points as QO pulled way. Dorsey led QO with 16 points, most of them in the paint, while Parisotto, Garrett and Faraone each had eight.
“I think that by the time the season gets into February we will have developed a whole lot of depth,” said Foringer, and perhaps that combined with QO’s characteristic relentless defense may continue their run of postseason success.
“Definitely realistic,” said co-captain Bikim of the team’s expectations to return to states. “Just because we have new players it doesn’t change our program, the system we run and what we believe in.”
Added co-captain Brown, he and other upperclassmen learned a lot from last year’s team leaders. “Just watching them play and the way they carry the team and the way they lead … now I’m trying to bring that to my senior year so I can help the younger guys out there.”
Coach Chris Campbell and the Lady Cougars face a similar situation as the boys. They return only three seniors and must replace four starters who are now playing basketball in college. Two projected starters are injured, and two other girls joined the team late after playing on the QO girls’ soccer team that made it to the state semifinals. And, Campbell said, they play “the toughest schedule in the county.”
Campbell is trying to teach his young team some basic plays to keep them competitive early in the season, and they were 3-3 at the start of the new year.
“We don’t have one-third of the playbook in that we had last year,” he said. He has focused on “putting in a few things and trying to run them well, and we’re not there yet. … You got to figure out how to win early when you aren’t very good yet. It’s just the reality of high school basketball.”
The team’s new look features more size and athleticism. The roster lists six girls 5-8 or taller, including 6-4 freshman Tatiana Popa. Freshman Anaya Badmus is, according to Campbell, “a good athletic point guard.”
But Badmus is out with an ankle injury and 5-7 junior Destini Kelley, a projected starting forward, has a broken toe. So, the current starters are senior Maggie Regan, juniors Michaels, Teresa Shelton and 5-9 Jenna Williams, and the freshman Popa at center. Senior Yekta Kamali, 5-9, will also see action in the frontcourt.
“Our team definitely has more post players than we have had in the past which allows us to look inside more instead of relying solely on our three-point shooting,” said Regan, one of only three returning seniors.
But that’s not to say three-point shooting won’t still be an important part of QO’s offense. In a recent 54-19 win over Rockville, Regan made a school record eight three-pointers on her way to 26 points, and QO made 11 three-pointers as a team, tying the school record set last January.
“It’s just a constant teaching process,” Campbell said. “We’ve got great kids. They’re working hard. … Hopefully we’ll continue to get better and try to win as many games during that learning curve as possible.”