After playing in the St. John's Christmas Classic last season, Laurel boys' basketball coach Keith Coutreyer said he thought it would be in his team's best interest to use this year's holiday break to schedule more practices, not games.
So for the past two weeks, Coutreyer has used the team's practices to revamp its starting lineup after the Spartans began the season by losing five of their first six games.
"We had some adjustments to make, and I thought it would be better if we made them in practice, where all our focus could be on us, and not having to prepare for another game," Coutreyer said. "Now, it's like we are a totally different team."
Laurel's personnel changes have resulted in a two-game winning streak. The Spartans defeated Pallotti, 63-42, on Jan. 2 before coming back the next day to score a season-high 80 points in an 80-65 victory over Bowie. They entered Tuesday's game against Crossland with a record of 3-5 overall, 2-4 in 4A League play.
Coutreyer credits much of the team's turnaround to the play of senior center Aaron O'Reggio, who made his first appearance of the season against Pallotti after he suffered a serious injury to his right calf when he was struck by a car in October. O'Reggio scored two points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds against the Panthers before adding six points and a team-high eight rebounds against Bowie.
"He came up big for us inside," Coutreyer said. "He's a great rebounder, and rebounding had been one of our biggest weaknesses. But Aaron has worked hard to comeback, and he's made us a better team."
Coutreyer also tinkered with his lineup by moving sophomore point guard David Potter to small forward, replacing junior DeMarcus White, who moved to power forward. This made senior Charles Hatten the team's sixth-man. Senior Ira Chapman is now the team's point guard, and has directed a Laurel offense that scored 143 points in his first two games as a starter, which is 43 more points than the Spartans scored in the previous three games combined.
Rams Get Mobley Back The Suitland girls' basketball team entered the week on a two-game winning streak, and co-coach Thornton Boone received more good news when he learned that junior forward Raeshawn Mobley, the team's second-leading scorer, was expected to return this week after spraining her left ankle on Dec. 26.
The two-time defending 4A League champion Rams needed Mobley's return: Suitland (6-2, 5-0) played Oxon Hill (7-2, 6-0) on Tuesday in a game between the only undefeated teams in conference play.
"Since Rae-Rae brings so much to our team, she's hard to replace because she can score, rebound and is one of our best defenders," Boone said. "We're not the same team when she can't play."
Mobley, who is averaging 16.2 points per game, sustained the injury in the first period of the team's 68-47 loss to St. Frances of Baltimore in the Holiday Hoops Classic at Washington Bible College. The Rams were 2-2 in Mobley's absence.
Potomac Has Trouble Finishing Potomac Coach Michael Strother said if there was one positive aspect of his girls' basketball team's four-game losing streak, it was that the Wolverines now understand they have what it takes to win.
The Wolverines entered the week 2-5 overall, 2-2 in 3A/2A/1A League play, but dropped their past four games -- to Friendly, Richard Montgomery, Whitman and Georgetown Visitation -- by an average of just 6.5 points.
"I'm very optimistic," Strother said. "We were right there in all four of those games, and we could have won all four of those games. We were just one or two plays away each time."
Offense is not the problem for the Wolverines, who have four players averaging at least nine points per game. Sophomore guard Juantale Cook leads the team with 14.5 points per game.
Potomac's defense late in games, however, has been ineffective. The Wolverines have allowed opponents an average of 19.2 points in the fourth quarter -- nearly five points higher than the Wolverines have allowed in any of the other quarters. That has resulted in four single-digit losses, including two in which Potomac led entering the final quarter.
"We've been in games all the way until the end this year," said Strother, whose team hosted winless Surrattsville on Tuesday. "We just have to find a way of finishing the game strong."