Basketball is a game of peaks and valleys and when the Quince Orchard High School boys’ basketball team is able to capitalize on its highs and minimize its mistakes, the Cougars are quite a force to be reckoned with. But with a young team that returned just two starters—junior point guard Noah Adnan and 6-foot-2 senior forward Cameron Garrett—and graduated seven seniors from a year ago, getting to the point where it can do that on a consistent basis will be a process, longtime coach Paul Foringer said.
“At times (in our 67-61 loss to Frederick High on Dec. 28) we looked like we could beat anybody and then in a matter of minutes, it looked like we’d never played basketball before,” Foringer said. “We need to learn why we’re making the mistakes we’re making and then eliminate them.”
The Cougars’ (3-3 record) style of play—high-energy, high-risk defense to counter their height disadvantage against the majority of opponents—requires a lot of running. In order to keep his own players fresh while trying to tire the opposition, Foringer has been switching players in and out every four or five minutes. The goal, as the season progresses, is to build depth—ultimately Foringer said he’d like to be able to put any one of 10 guys out on the court and not worry about the level of play dropping.
“We have to play a trap defense,” Foringer said. “And we can’t let anyone get the ball in the lane. We’re going to constantly be hounding (opposing offenses) and trying to wear them down.”
Sophomore guards Alex Parisotto, who picked up some varsity minutes a year ago, and Andy Wexler have surfaced as reliable scoring options, and Foringer said Adnan has done well controlling the backcourt. With this year’s team comprised of mostly underclassmen, it’s likely Quince Orchard’s major success will lie a bit down the road. That being said, it would be foolish for any team to look past the Cougars.
“(The season) is a process; I told the kids (after the loss to Frederick) that it’s OK to lose and learn now,” Foringer said. “The
goal is to improve so that when (playoffs roll around in) February, we are the best that we can be.”
It’s a new era for Quince Orchard girls’ basketball under first-year head coach Bobby Bishop, who previously served for six years as the Cougars’ junior varsity coach. In recent history Quince Orchard, which fell in last year’s Class 4A West Region Section II semifinals, has focused on offense and mostly employed set plays.
Bishop’s preferred defense-minded style of play—which promotes team basketball—is predicated on a variety of high-pressure defenses and running the floor. Offense, Bishop said, will be created through the Cougars’ defense—and good defense is primarily rooted in effort.
Quince Orchard is off to a 3-2 start and Bishop said the best is yet to come, as returning and new players gel and adjust to his system. Quince Orchard thrives when it’s sharing the ball and taking shots—Bishop said as long as it’s a smart shot, he’ll never reprimand a player for taking an open shot. Everyone on the team can dribble and everyone on the team can shoot, Bishop said; the goal is to instill in his players the confidence to take initiative in competition.
“If you make my team, I need you to (expect) to play; I need to be able to put you in and feel comfortable that the level won’t drop,” Bishop said. “These girls have talent and I have all the confidence in the world in them. I just need them to believe.”
Though the Cougars are averaging about 21 steals per game, they’ve struggled to capitalize on those opportunities on the other end of the floor, Bishop said. And it’s mostly because players are still hesitant to shoot.
“If you put the ball up, you have a 50-50 chance of scoring, especially if you rebound,” Bishop said. “If you turn the ball over (because you keep passing the ball around), you definitely won’t score.”
Guards Makayla Wright and Lindsay Michaels, who have been leaders on defense, also provide scoring options around the perimeter. Versatile 6-foot-1 sophomore forward Alex Boggs, Paige McNeal (5-11) and Jenna Williams, who’s been one of Quince Orchard’s top rebounders, add valuable strength under the basket as well.
Indoor track and field
Led by seniors Zakaiyah Bright, who finished fourth in the 55-meter dash at last year’s state championship, and Alexis Martin and junior Kyra Lyles, the Cougar girls’ strengths lie in the sprint events this winter. Lyles has established herself early this season as a potential contender in the 300m dash and 500m run—she’s posted top 10 times in both, per mocorunning.com.
Junior Maeve Smith, who finished in the top 10 of the high jump event at last year’s county championship and qualified for the state meet, is looking to become a consistent scorer for Quince Orchard this season as well. She already recorded a personal-best jump of 4 feet, 10 inches in the first meet of the season—the county’s ninth-best performance so far this winter.
The Cougar boys might not necessarily have such a clear-cut strength, but they’ve already taken large strides, coach Seann Pelkey said, and are looking to continue building depth. Through four meets, several athletes who are likely to take on prominent scoring roles this winter have posted lifetime bests. Senior Johnny Adjani-Aldrin’s personal-best 7.04-second 55m dash currently ranks seventh among county athletes; he also dropped .39 seconds in one week in the 55m hurdles. Junior Queyan Robinson rapidly shaved time in the 300m dash and 500m run as well.
Senior Alfred Mevo, who is among the county’s top in long- and triple-jump, should be a reliable scorer for Quince Orchard through the county championship—but there are no horizontal jumping events at states. Senior Rashaud Thomas and junior Steven Williams should make for a nice scoring tandem in the shot put.
While Quince Orchard certainly has its sights on performing well during indoor championship season, much of the winter will be spent laying the foundation for what the Cougars hope will be a prosperous spring outdoor season. Fresh off the cross country season, distance runners will be coming down and working on building some speed. And with more events, some of which are among the Cougars’ best, and typically a larger roster—Pelkey said he encourages first-time track athletes to start in the spring and many fall athletes who take the winter off return for spring—the outdoor track season tends to be when athletes are most primed to reach their highest levels.
Given the perennial postseason success of Quince Orchard’s football program, Cougars wrestling is no stranger to a hectic start each winter. Fresh off winning Quince Orchard’s third state title, many football-wrestling crossover athletes are only now starting to settle in. But, after the holiday break, the Cougars’ lineup, which is anchored by five returning starters, should really start to fill out, coach Rob Wolf said.
Quince Orchard opened its season by finishing fifth at the Armed Forces dual tournament in Hagerstown, where senior Jose Echeona (138 pounds) became only the 14th Cougar to pick up his 100th high school wrestling win. A fourth-place finisher in the 126-pound weight division at last year’s state championship, Echeona is off to a 19-4 for what should be another successful campaign. Junior Rodrigo Cornejo, who qualified for regionals a year ago in the 113-pound bracket, has stepped into 126 pounds this winter, where he has gone 19-3. After returning from a concussion sustained early this season, 113-pounder Carlos Guerrero, another returning regional qualifier, went 10-0 at the Westminster Duals held Dec. 27 to 28.
Junior Ryan Jones (195 pounds) is poised to build upon last year’s breakout sophomore season, during which he finished fourth at the state meet having only one year of wrestling experience. After missing the second half of 2017-2018 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Jay Bollinger, who was undefeated at the time of his injury, is off to a 16-2 start, with plans to drop to 170 by the postseason.
As much as Quince Orchard would like to win every match or meet it enters, the goal, Wolf said, is to get better each day and be ready to put forth its best performances come postseason. In preparation of doing so, the Cougars challenge themselves as much as possible during the regular season.
“We (compete) in a couple tough tournaments; I try to go find the best (competition) to get us ready for the end of the year,” Wolf said. “We could go against (weaker) teams and win all the time, but it wouldn’t mean has much. You go against hard teams and you might lose but if you wrestle well, that’s what matters. It’ll help you get better.”