Courtesy of Baltimore Sun
Social Media Director
March 1, 2017
SPIN MOVE! Fran Vanegas with the nifty fast break spin and and layup to put the Lady Raiders back in front, 55-54, with four minutes left in the game. The girls were in prime position to conquer the universally-recognized best team in the county. The Lady Raiders, however, ran out of steam down the stretch, despite getting strong contributions from the shooting and muscle of Ryan Jones, Fran Vanegas and Sophia Harrison. Despite the loss to one of the best teams in the state, the Lady Raiders are poised to make yet another push in the playoffs. The girls basketball program has flourished in recent years and it looks like it could reach an even higher plateau, as the team will be competing for their second county championship in three years.
Not only does the Varsity team have a 11-3 record and find themselves a mere two games out of first place, but they have showcased their depth with underclassmen stepping up and playing pivotal roles. Freshman, Kayla Beckwith is starting as a freshman at Center talked about how much she is learning and how she was able to take on such an integral role as an inexperienced player.
“I’ve been able to grow a lot on varsity right from the beginning of the season because everyone made me feel welcomed, especially Fran (Vanegas) and Ryan (Jones). They go out of their way to help me and my teammates get better. But it really goes a long way when, in my opinion, the two best players in the county teach you things from all aspects of the game. They know what it takes to get to the top because we love the game and have the same goal of winning states this year.”
A chunk of the program’s success is also courtesy of the fantastic JV squad, who has a 12-1 record (12-0 in county). The team has shown to have a lot of depth and has proved it by absorbing the untimely concussion to senior captain guard, Kelley Flynn, in the season opener. Fran Vanegas, a four-year veteran on varsity, said that having a lot of depth to compliment experience has boosted the team.
“The depth of our team has helped us be successful because whoever is on the court is helping us. Since our team is so deep, the next person who steps up on the court after the starters does not slow us down or anything and does the same thing the starters do,” Vanegas said.
Coach Reynolds also remarked how well the team has been able to mesh, which ultimately translates to winning.
“It’s been a lot of fun having the younger kids with a couple of the older ones. I think the leadership has really shown and the freshman and the underclassmen understand the expectations. The people with more experience are stepping up and realizing that we really need to work as a team.
The team’s achievement is predicated on its veteran leadership. Along with Vanegas, they have guard Ryan Jones, who has been a prolific scorer for the Lady Raiders. Vanagas and Jones have proven to be a dynamic duo, having played together on Varsity for all four years of high school. They have great chemistry and do a lot of the heavy lifting for the team. Throughout the year, the team’s forte has been their guard play. Coach Reynolds said that having savvy in the backcourt can cause a real headache for any team they face, specifically referring to the tandem of Vanegas and Jones.
“They were Freshman on Varsity at one point and the seniors at that point took them under their wing and kinda lead the way for them just like they are doing for our underclassmen right now. Ryan and Fran definitely have put in the work outside of season during offseason to really improve their personal games which has definitely helped the team as a whole.”
Chemistry and leadership are hallmark values in the program. The laurels and accomplishments of Chelsea Mitchell, who was a 1,000 point scorer two years ago, are still fresh on their minds. This year, the lion’s share of the leadership duties have been assumed by Vanegas and Jones. They have also become a selfless team and has morphed from a group of individuals to one cohesive unit.
“Our team has grown a lot from the beginning of the year. Our first couple of games we were not playing as a team at all. We would not run plays and would just try to beat defenders one on one. Throughout the season, we improved on running our plays precisely and working together our whole game changed,” Vanegas said.
One of the games that changed the dynamic of the team was the overtime loss against Long Reach. According to Coach Reynolds, that game really brought the team together and helped them learn and improve.
“We lost to Long Reach in overtime and it was a tough loss for everybody, but I think we came back stronger after that loss and it was kind of an eye opener for us and I think that really put it into perspective,” she said. “That’s when the girls took it the extra mile in practice and their sharing the ball really well and everyone is contributing which helps the team dynamic, and the other teams have to try and decide what the best way is to try and stop us.”
The Lady Raiders look like a dangerous team and looks like they have yet to reach their peak. They blend experience and youth beautifully and make for one of the most deadly forces in Howard County. There is a ton of future promise on tap with a program as successful as the Lady Raiders. With a lot of underclassmen on Varsity and one of the best JV teams in the county, the program will be a challenging for county championships on both tiers for many years to come.