One-year-old Patrice Jones is squirming anxiously in the arms of hergrandfather, Kenneth Kirby. From the stands in the Archbishop Spalding gymnasium, she is crying louder and longer than most fans can cheer.
She wants her mommy, naturally, but her mom -- Broadneck's 5-foot-11 Kennita Kirby-Jones -- is busy crashing the boards in the Bruins' Noel Classic quarterfinal girls basketball battle with Mount de Sales.
Shortly after Kirby-Jones grabs one of her five rebounds in the game and banks it in off of the backboard for two points, the third quarter ends and she comes trotting toward the Bruins' bench.
A brief glance upward confirms that her daughter remains safely with her 38-year-old grandfather. Still, Kirby-Jones has difficulty remaining focused during Coach Bruce Springer's pep talk.
"It's hard to just stand or sit there and listen to her cry. You just want to go get her sometimes," said Kirby-Jones, 18, of her 17-month-old daughter. "Usually, my mom, Dorothy Kasey, or my little brother (Kenneth Jr.) or sister (Kahla) come to the games. They can play with her back and forth."
Kennita Kirby became pregnant with Patrice as a junior at Chesapeake High, just a few days before turning 16 and two years after her freshman season as a state meet-qualifying hurdler in track. On July 15, four days prior to Patrice's first birthday, she married Patrice's father, Maurice Taylor Jones, 19.
In the past 26 months, Kirby-Jones missed only the last semester of her senior year at Chesapeake and a few practices in volleyball and basketball. But since transferring to Broadneck this fall, she makes the games and the grades -- she has a 3.0 grade-point average -- just like every other girl on the team.
"I'm a guidance aide for one period of the day, so if I have homework, that's when I study," said Kirby-Jones, who took her Scholastic Aptitude Test in early December and expects the results soon.
"It's hard sometimes. Like when I want to come home and just want to lay down and rest, but here comes Patrice . . . 'Mommy, Mommy.' Sometimes, I think of how hard going to college is going to be on the three of us. But as long as I'm home with her, I try to give her as much of my attention as I can."
Maurice earned enough money to buy a new car and recently rented a Glen Burnie apartment, thanks to his manager-in-training position at Domino's Pizza.
Kirby-Jones is stayingwith friends in Browns Woods but has considered moving in with Maurice.
She is eligible for graduation this month and has just completed an All-County volleyball season, which caught the eyes of college scouts.
But Springer liked Kirby-Jones' potential and asked her toplay on his team.
"She's great, defensively, clogging the middle," he said. "She gets better every time she plays and has the physicalability to go Division I, but isn't as polished as I think she's going to be."
At 164 pounds, Kirby-Jones is an intimidating force in the lane. Backing up starters Jen Chapman and Sarah Bannat, she averages four points and six rebounds per game.
Friends like teammates Chapman, Nikia Green and Ava Tasker are learning plenty about life bywatching Kirby-Jones prosper.
"She sets a good example as a person, an athlete, a student and a mother," Tasker said. "Especially for others who might find themselves in a similar situation."
"It's hard to imagine someone raising a daughter and still getting a high school education," said Chapman. "But K. K.'s doing it. She's a special person, and her daughter is beautiful."
Broadneck volleyball coachGlenn Brainer can't say enough about Kirby-Jones, who led his Bruinsto a Region IV runner-up finish with 115 kills while serving 87 percent with 20 aces. She spends Sundays playing club volleyball.
"She's got some scholarship opportunities. Bowie State and three other schools are interested," he said.
Kirby-Jones has an A in the marketing class Brainer teaches and also is involved in organizing food drives for the needy.
"Not only is she an awesome athlete, but even with all of her other responsibilities, she's still willing to help others," Brainer said.
Whatever the endeavor, Kirby-Jones has the same determination that helped her turn a potential liability into an asset.
"When I got pregnant, my mom had remarried," Kirby-Jones said. "And my stepfather said I should start making arrangements to livesomewhere else.
"So I went to live in Annapolis with my cousins, but I still went to Chesapeake. I liked school and playing basketball. I played until I was four months pregnant, even though I sat the bench near the end of the season."
But for Kirby-Jones to remain in school after Patrice was born, Maurice, then a senior at Meade, had to drop out for a semester to support his daughter and future wife. Helater returned and graduated.
"He would drive me to school and then work two jobs. Patrice was 2 months old. Formula and diapers were expensive," Kirby-Jones said.
When Maurice's car broke down, she took a semester off to spend more time with Patrice.