Girls Basketball

March 21, 2007

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Marah Strickland

Towson Catholic

The Sun's two-time All-Metro Player of the Year will end her high school career with a whirlwind week that few girls have experienced in the history of local basketball. The 6-foot guard, who is headed for Maryland, will play in the McDonald's All-American Game next Wednesday in Louisville and then move on to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association High School All-America Game March 31 at the NCAA Final Four in Cleveland. That will put the finishing touch on a career that includes 2,056 points during four years in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference - two at St. John's in Frederick and two at Towson Catholic. A versatile, athletic player, Strickland has NBA-range on her three-pointer, a quick first step on the drive and slippery moves that, along with her size, make her tough to contain. Trying to find the Owls senior's greatest strength or her biggest weakness can prove equally daunting tasks. Strickland does everything well and nothing poorly. "What she has to work on, I'm not sure," Seton Keough coach Jackie Boswell said. "She can score from inside. She can score from outside. That's what makes her so tough, because at this level, you don't have guards with that height to stop her inside and you don't have post players mature enough to be able to guard her from outside. Not to mention that she works really hard." In two years, Strickland led the Owls back to prominence for the first time since the mid-1980s. This season, she averaged 22.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, three assists and 2.4 steals in leading the No. 4 Owls to a 19-7 season against a tough schedule that included the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona the week before Christmas.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Maureen Shacreaw

Atholton

After the Raiders lost to Mount Hebron, 58-38, on Jan. 12, Shacreaw made them run 20 laps before every practice for three weeks. She also gave every player a plastic bracelet imprinted with, "COUNTY/REGION/STATE," so they could look down at their wrists while they ran and be reminded of their goals. Shacreaw's motivational strategy, along with a lot of conditioning and an emphasis on fundamentally sound basketball, guided the No. 6 Raiders to all three of their goals - the Howard County championship, the Class 2A South title and the first girls basketball state championship in school history. They finished 25-3 after beating Southern, 69-62, in the state final. "I'm really proud of them as a group," Shacreaw said. "They did all the things that I was on them all year for. It was all there. Somebody heard something." Returning four starters, including exceptional point guard Julie Taylor, made the Raiders the team to beat in the county from the start of the season, and that was a mixed blessing. "To be honest, this was the hardest season, I've ever had coaching. I think a lot of it was because the expectation was there and [the players] wanted to butt heads with me a lot and I refused to let them win in that sense. I said, `This is what we want to do and we're going to do it.' There were different times when I challenged them to be better than they were, and sometimes they didn't like that," said Shacreaw, who is 94-69 in seven seasons with the Raiders. By the end of the season, especially during an impressive playoff run, everyone came together and the players put everything they had into their big finish.

FIRST TEAM

Asya Bussie

Seton Keough

Although just a sophomore, Bussie was called upon to take a leadership role on a young team and she responded. The 6-foot-3 center led the No. 3 Gators (22-7) with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game. In her second season as a starter, she matured into a player who wanted the ball in the clutch. Bussie could dominate in the paint against most foes and she drew a lot of fouls. Once at the line, she converted 65 percent of her free throws. She also figured prominently in the heart of the Gators' game - their defense. They liked to press and trap. With Bussie towering in the middle, she often picked off the errant passes forced by her teammates. Bussie remained consistent throughout the season, contributing 17 points in a 58-57 loss to No. 1 St. Frances in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference semifinals.

Becky Cox

McDonogh

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