Gwynn Park junior Kemena Brooks settled into her seat near midcourt alongside junior teammates Markeya Watson and Kristen Boone with about five minutes left in the City Title game last Friday. She did not mind that Gwynn Park's practice had run late, because she was not too concerned with watching how the Bishop McNamara girls' basketball team defeated H.D. Woodson.

"I wanted to watch them celebrate winning the City Title because they worked so hard for it," Brooks said. "Winning the City Title game was their goal for the past three seasons."

That had been Brooks's goal -- until she transferred from McNamara to Gwynn Park six games into this season. Brooks arrived at Gwynn Park in early December hoping for more playing time, having been a reserve on a McNamara team that has a starting lineup that is often difficult to break.

"I got tired of sitting and watching," said Brooks, who averaged 6.3 points per game as a Mustang. "I knew I was good enough to contribute to any team. I just needed the chance."

Gwynn Park Coach Marvin Vann gave Brooks the opportunity, letting her join the team after tryouts. He then watched as she came off the bench to score 17 points in a victory over South River on Dec. 17. Two games later, against Bladensburg, Brooks made her first start. She has not left the lineup for the defending Maryland 3A champions.

The 5-foot-8 Brooks has not disappointed along the way. She has averaged a team-best 12.4 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals per game to help put Gwynn Park (23-1) within two victories of successfully defending its state title.

"No question: Kemena's leadership and insight and the way she acts have made us a better team," Vann said. "You don't have to tell her what she needs to do because she has a great instinct for the game, and that's something critical your team needs to have to win games."

-- Jon Gallo