Northeast (Anne Arundel) had a slower-than-expected start in girls basketball, but Stephanie Lazor has been steady in good times and bad.
The senior with the red, white and blue shoelaces also has made a quantum leap in 1990-91.
Lazor, who averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds last season, is up to 17.5 points and 14.7 rebounds per game. She also has 54 steals, 54 assists and 39 blocked shots for the Eagles (9-5), winners of their fourth straight in Friday's 57-31 romp at Southern of Anne Arundel.
Lazor's game-high 24 points included 18 to help build a 31-17 halftime lead. She added 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks.
The all-around effort came at the scene of her first big moment in basketball. Last season, "with everyone screaming at me and my knees wobbling," Lazor said, her two free throws with eight seconds left gave Northeast its first victory over the five-time state champion Bulldogs, 54-52.
The 5-foot-11 forward has been Northeast's most player since.
"Stephanie is so smooth. Her strength is her knowledge of the game, and it's hard to teach her anything," said coach Calvin Vain. "She's a student of basketball, one who always knows where she is on the court."
Lazor's output, including seven games of 20 or more points, is surprising because she wasn't expected to be playing this season.
She sustained a major knee injury vaulting feet-first over North East (Cecil) catcher Tracie Kennedy to score the winning run in last year's state Class 2A softball championship. Arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament failed, and major surgery followed.
The prognosis was for a minimum six-month recovery, but Lazor was ready after three, missing her senior soccer season.
Lazor credits her quick recovery to thrice-weekly, four-hour sessions with therapist Melissa Cooper. And that changed the career ambitions of one who had seemed bound for the professional bowling tour.
"I'm really interested in physical therapy. Now I know so much about it," Lazor said, grinning. "I saw how they help people get back in shape. It was neat, and I thought it would be great to work with people who rely on you."
That surprises nobody at Northeast, where Lazor is known for helping people with problems both on and off the court.
"That fits right in with her. She's definitely a caring and compassionate person," Vain said. "She's concerned with people on the team and in school."
Elsewhere, too. "I looked down two weeks ago and saw the shoelaces," Vain said. "I asked her why she was wearing them. She said that it was to remind us that while we're still playing games, other Americans are at war."
Northeast since has added U.S. flag patches and yellow ribbons to its uniforms. That is a credit, Vain said, "to someone who beats her own drum and does a good job at it."
And while keeping games in perspective, Lazor hopes for a return to the basketball playoffs, where the Eagles lost to Mount Hebron in last year's 2A final. "We've struggled a bit, but I think we'll make it," said Lazor, who should exceed both 1,000 career points and rebounds en route.
Then comes softball, where the three-year captain is a .354 career hitter and top fielding shortstop for a team that has won 56 straight games -- the nation's top streak and fifth-best ever -- and three straight state 2A titles.