1996-97 All-Carroll County girls basketball

March 18, 1997|By Jeff Seidel and Glenn P. Graham

Coach of the Year

Alice Smith, Francis Scott Key: In her third season, Smith provided Francis Scott Key with its first Class 1A state title and the county's second girls championship. The 1977-78 South Carroll team was the first to accomplish the feat. A quick look at how Smith's players systematically handled the Mardela full-court press in Friday's state semifinal game gave a good indication of the Eagles' preparation. Their 25-3 season, concluding with a convincing 53-23 win over Northern-Garrettt in Saturday's final, was the best record for a Francis Scott Key basketball team. Perhaps most important, the Eagles were able to learn from their losses. After a difficult regular-season ending 58-43 loss at Middletown in a game that decided the Monocacy Valley Athletic League title, the Eagles responded with a solid win over Poolesville in the first round of the region playoffs, despite losing senior leader Nicole Keffer to a knee injury in the opening minute. They never looked back. Three years ago, Smith took over a program that was 3-16 the year before. The Eagles were 7-15 her first year and improved to 14-10 last season. The continued improvement of three-year varsity standouts Stephanie Stambaugh, Cindy Sheedy and Keffer -- whom Smith coached when they were freshmen on the junior varsity -- played a major role. Junior Jessica Matos added versatility and the final piece came with the emergence of sophomore point guard Sindi Stem.

Player of the Year

Jill Ibex, Westminster, Sr., F: There was the range from the perimeter, combined with the presence to go inside and score. Then came her ability to rebound and even bring the ball up the floor. Defense, with her shot-blocking knack and quick hands to come up with steals, was another trademark. But perhaps the most impressive facet of Ibex's game was consistency, how she did everything so well just about every game for the Owls (19-7). No team in the county relied more on one player than the Owls, who had the 6-0 Ibex in the middle and a solid group of role players. Teams went against Westminster with the goal of shutting down Ibex, but she seemed to find a way to average 14 points and nine rebounds. She also finished with 94 blocks, 67 assists and 59 steals. Her consistency didn't come about just this season. A four-year varsity player and three-year starter, Ibex became the second Owl to surpass the 1,000-point mark for a career (1,078) and ended as the program's all-time rebounding leader (817) and shot-blocker (268). "Jill was just very consistent all the way through and you knew what you were going to get every night. There wasn't a no-show one night and phenomenal the next," said Westminster coach Bernie Koontz.

The first team

Shannan Henley, South Carroll, Sr., G: A look back at the Cavaliers' 69-52 win at Kennedy in a region playoff game will give you an idea of what Henley provided the team with this season -- everything. She scored 26 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, handed out five assists and came up with three steals. With senior point guard Lindsey Vosloh out of the lineup that night, she also brought the ball up the floor. "We knew all about the talent she has. But this season, she provided us with leadership that progressed throughout the season," said South Carroll coach Al Skierski. "She showed she could take over a game when she needed to and also did well to get everyone else involved." Henley, who averaged 15.8 points per game, had the ability to drive the lane or score from the outside, connecting on 33 three pointers. The two-time first-team selection also averaged 6.8 rebounds with 52 assists, 60 steals and 17 blocked shots in leading the Cavaliers (19-6) to the region finals.

Nicole Keffer, F. Scott Key, Sr., G: A three-year starter and two-time first-team selection, Keffer was the leader throughout the Eagles progression as they reached the ultimate goal of winning a state title. Her scoring average -- just under 12 points a game this season -- went down after she injured her knee in the first 30 seconds of the Eagles region playoff opening win against Poolesville, limiting her to part-time duty the rest of the postseason. Her value to the team was much more than the solid numbers she posted. Along with her leadership, Keffer's versatility and court awareness was two of her biggest assets. Her consistent jumper often opened up the Eagles inside game and like most standout players, she made the players around her better. She averaged better than four rebounds, four assists and 2.5 steals per game.

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