It was 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday, and four of Chesapeake's five girls' basketball starters were fast asleep -- and this was just the first week of practice.

Still, the effort the Cougars had made during the offseason was enough to make even the toughest of athletes a little drowsy: The team played in three leagues, traveled to tournaments and competed in shootouts, extra work designed to make the defending 4A East Region champions even better.

The only way for Chesapeake to improve on last season's finish is to win a state title. The Cougars have their starting five back from last winter's historic season, five girls who have known each other and played together since middle school. Seniors Lynnea Spinnenweber, Courtney Gogolinski, Ginger Williams, Kristen Siskey and Meghan Klug are going to be tough to beat.

"Last year we accomplished most of our goals," Coach John Spinnenweber said. "Now it's time to go back and try to do the same thing and get out of the county. We'll be toughened up by the regular season. As long as we're playing well by the end of the season, we can take it one step farther and potentially win a state title."

For the first time in school history, the Cougars made it to the county championship, won the 4A East Region title and advanced to the semifinal round of the state playoffs, where their storybook season was halted in a 72-58 loss to Churchill. Chesapeake finished 20-7 last season.

"We're definitely looking for a repeat," said Gogolinski, the team's leading returning scorer (13.5 points per game). "Hopefully we can make it farther. I think we're more on the same page this year. We have the one year under our belts, and we have girls stepping up who want it more this year. Our communication has opened up a lot, too."

Williams, the team's strongest inside player, is faster, more confident and can now hit 12- to 15-foot jump shots -- something the coaches were reluctant to let her try last season. Spinnenweber has improved her shooting ability, and Klug is also making jump shots she wasn't last season.

"We don't want to think too far ahead," Klug said. "We don't want to be too sure of anything. We're trying to go for the underdog role, but it's hard to because we have a lot of expectations."

Klug, Gogolinski, Williams and Spinnenweber each averaged at least nine points last season. Gogolinski also averaged 8.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists.

In the regular season last year, Chesapeake lost to Meade, Severna Park, Annapolis and South River -- all teams that have the potential to defeat the Cougars again.

"I don't want to lose," said Williams, who averaged 11.6 points per game last season. "I worked on my self, my attitude, how I handle things personally, how I handle it if I mess up. . . . We want it more now than we did before because we're seniors. We want to leave with something big."

Boys Led by 6-foot-4 junior center Tim Merritt, the Cougars are going to be more of a factor than last year's three-win season. Chesapeake will look to younger players such as sophomore Mike Hanes and 6-1 junior forward Lloyd Henson, who saw a lot of playing time last season.

Four players return from last season, including senior forward Garrett Bolling. Chesapeake is still looking for a true point guard, but Coach Doug Sisson said he is confident in all of his players.

"We have decent leaping ability," Sisson said. "Hopefully we'll be able to control the boards a little better this year. We'll be a lot more competitive than we were last year. We're a lot quicker."

Boys' Schedule

Dec. 19 vs. Glen Burnie, 7:15

Dec. 27-28 at Bob Pascal Tournament, TBA

Jan. 3 at Severna Park, 7:15

Jan. 7 vs. South River, 7:15

Jan. 10 at Meade, 5:15

Jan. 14 at Northeast, 7:15

Jan. 17 vs. Arundel, 7:15

Jan. 21 at Southern, 5:15

Jan. 24 at North County, 7:15

Jan. 29 vs. Old Mill, 7:15

Jan. 31 vs. Annapolis, 5:15

Feb. 4 at Broadneck, 7:15

Feb. 7 at Glen Burnie, 7:15

Feb. 11 vs. Northeast, 7:15

Feb. 14 at Old Mill, 7:15

Feb. 18 vs. North County, 7:15

Feb. 21 vs. Meade, 7:15

Girls' Schedule

Dec. 12 vs. Mount De Sales, 7:15

Dec. 17 vs. Randallstown, 7:15

Dec. 19 vs. Glen Burnie, 5:15

Dec. 27-30 at Spalding Tournament, TBA

Jan. 3 at Severna Park, 5:15

Jan. 7 vs. South River, 5:15

Jan. 10 at Meade, 7:15

Jan. 14 at Northeast, 5:15

Jan. 17 vs. Arundel, 5:15

Jan. 21 at Southern, 7:15

Jan. 24 at North County, 5:15

Jan. 29 vs. Old Mill, 5:15

Jan. 31 vs. Annapolis, 7:15

Feb. 4 at Broadneck, 5:15

Feb. 6 vs. North Harford, 7:15

Feb. 7 at Glen Burnie, 5:15

Feb. 11 vs. Northeast, 5:15

Feb. 14 at Old Mill, 5:15

Feb. 18 vs. North County, 5:15

Feb. 21 vs. Meade, 5:15

Junior Tim Merritt, left, is boys' 6-4 center. Lynnea Spinnenweber, right, helped girls to 4A East title last season.