Girls’ basketball: Seneca Valley emerges as contender in Montgomery 3A/2A

Seneca Valley lost to Montgomery County 3A/2A power Damascus twice last winter, by a combined 55 points. The Screaming Eagles took another loss to the Swarmin’ Hornets two weeks ago, this time by five points, their only setback in the last six games. It might’ve been the most important performance of their recent string of games— a true sign of how far the team has come in the past year.

“It gave them just a little bit of confidence that they didn’t know that they had,” Seneca Valley Coach Jennifer Hoffmann said.

Seneca Valley (10-3, 6-2 Montgomery 3A/2A) is one of the county’s hottest teams at the moment, and a contender in the division. Hoffmann’s team, which won 14 games a year ago but faded down the stretch, has been dominant during the last month of the season. It has The Screaming Eagles have averaged 54.5 points per game in January, and have held their last six opponents to an average of 28.6 points. They have two reliable scorers in guards Juanita Craig and Ceayra Brown, who combined for 60 points in two wins over Rockville and Watkins Mill last week.

Seneca Valley has been through three coaches in three years, and Hoffmann took the job last year wanting to bring stability to the program. She coached for over a decade at Richard Montgomery before moving to Seneca to coach the junior varsity team last winter, a move that gave her a cushion to prepare for the head coaching position.

“Just being involved, and getting to know the girls,” Hoffmann said. “It wasn’t just me stepping in as a brand new coach.”

Seneca Valley’s streak is reminiscent of last year’s seven-game winning streak at the end of January, but the team dropped five of its last eight games to close out the campaign. That included losses to Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Quince Orchard, two teams that the Screaming Eagles have beaten this season (they also boast wins over 4A stalwarts Gaithersburg and Northwest, and took Walter Johnson to overtime in a loss). Last month’s loss to Damascus (12-2, 6-0) was a moral victory of sorts for the Screaming Eagles, but to breakthrough in the division, Seneca must beat perennial powers Damascus and Poolesville, (12-1, 5-1) which are back-to-back on the schedule in the middle of February.

The hunger is there, according to Hoffmann. This is the most energetic team that she has ever coached, a group of players (including five seniors) that were begging her for gym time when school was cancelled due to weather last week. They routinely ask to practice on Saturdays, Hoffmann said, even when she volunteers to give them a weekend off.

“They [want] to be one,” Hoffmann said. “They want to be somebody this year. They want to do really well, they don’t just want to beat the teams they’re supposed to play.”

Top 20 rankings: Boys | Girls

The All-Met Watch: Week 6

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