COACH OF THE YEAR
Bernie Koontz, Westminster -- Toward the end of the fall season Koontz sat in the stands watching his wife's field hockey team when he began trying to assess the county basketball picture. South Carroll looked strong with everybody back. North Carroll was the defending county champ, and the Owls should be right there, too -- that was the assessment. But with five new starters, few expected the Owls to seriously challenge the Cavaliers for the county title. Koontz knew otherwise. The Owls exceeded most expectations with a 15-7 record that included a county title and a trip to the region semifinals. "We knew we wanted to be playing in the playoffs and had a chance to win the county title," Koontz said. "We had good kids in the program who were willing to work hard and make a commitment. We just all came together and played the way we were capable of." There were plenty of big wins this season for the third-year Owls coach, who now has a 38-29 career mark. The Owls opened some eyes with an early-season win over Annapolis, who reached the Class 4A state playoffs. They needed a win at Montgomery Blair in the final game of the regular season to assure the home-court edge against the same team in the opening round of the region playoffs. They got that and came back to defeat Montgomery Blair a second straight time to win their first playoff game under Koontz. And finally, there was the classic clash against South Carroll for the county title -- a 63-59 overtime win.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR Nicole Spencer, South Carroll, junior, center -- The starting point turning this into a Player of the Year season for the 5-foot-10 Spencer began long before any basketballs were being thrown around in practice. It was 10 games into her sophomore season when she went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Surgery followed three weeks later and then a spring and summer of rehabilitation. Doctors expected her back in time for the start of the basketball season, but she surprised many by being ready in time to play volleyball in the fall. As the basketball season rolled around, she showed the same kind of relentless inside play that first got her noticed as a sophomore. She finished this season averaging a county-high 13.3 points a game to go along with 8.8 rebounds. "We were hoping she would come back and show the form she had in those first 10 games last season. She was a little tentative at the start of the season, but got more and more physical as the season went on. All the while she worked diligently and it rubbed off on the rest of the team," said coach Al Skierski. Spencer scored in double figures in the Cavs' last nine regular-season games, capped by a 26-point, 10-rebound effort in the 63-59 overtime loss to Westminster. During the stretch, she averaged just over 16 points a game.
THE FIRST TEAM Julie Backof, Westminster, senior, forward -- Backof's value to the Owls team cannot be measured on numbers alone. Her contributions started in practice as a quiet leader to a team that had only one other senior. "She stepped up and the younger players followed," coach Bernie Koontz said. "She's not too vocal, but when she did have something to say, the other players listened. She's just a quality player who did everything for us." There were no huge scoring nights for Backof, just steady play game after game. No one in the county was more consistent. She finished the season averaging 9.5 points, 8.2 rebounds a game and had 25 steals and assists along with 24 blocked shots.
Amber Clutter, South Carroll, junior, guard -- As a sophomore last season, the 5-5 Clutter showed glimpses of what was ahead. This year, she arrived. Clutter took charge of the Cavaliers' offense and was in a class of her own among county point guards. She finished the season averaging 8.9 points a game with 50 assists and 47 steals. She was everything a coach would want in a point guard -- she handled opponents' presses, while directing the Cavaliers own; she distributed the ball effectively and also found her own shot. "Amber realized her potential this year and turned it into a strength for us," said coach Al Skierski. "She was much more aggressive this season and took control as our floor leader." Clutter also had the finest 36 seconds of any basketball player around in a win against North Carroll in February. In that span, she had nine points and three steals.
Melissa Gettemy, South Carroll,junior, forward -- Gettemy lived up to her pre-season billing as the most versatile player in the county. She had the ability to hurt opponents in many different ways with her all-around athleticism and aggressiveness. She averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds a game with 47 steals and 33 assists. "She was our point forward," said coach Al Skierski. "Her quickness and intelligence on the court makes up for her lack of size and she's not afraid to dive to the floor." Gettemy had a pair of 21-point efforts against Atholton and Thomas Johnson.
Beth Lister, Westminster, junior, forward -- Quickly became the Owls' go-to player inside and averaged 12.8 points and 7.3 rebounds a game in her first season on varsity. Coach Bernie Koontz was expecting the rebounding from Lister and with it, some easy put-backs. But the 5-11 Lister showed much more offensively with a variety of inside moves and the ability to shoot from 15 feet out. "She came into the season without a whole lot of expectations and worked hard and had a good junior year. She's always pushing herself to improve," said Koontz. Lister scored 19 in the Owls' 63-59 overtime win against South Carroll that gave them the county title.
PICKING THE TEAM
The All-Carroll County girls basketball team was selected by Glenn P. Graham after consultation with county coaches.