Walkersville senior Koffi Harrison laughs when she thinks about her trips to the free throw line as a freshman on the Lions' junior varsity girls' basketball team. In her first year playing the sport competitively, the results seldom were encouraging.
"Back then I would just kind of hope and pray that I would hit something," Harrison said. "If I made one, that would make my whole month. My teammates and I talk about it a lot when we want to joke around because I was horrible."
Now the joke is on Walkersville's opponents.
Harrison has blossomed into one of the top all-around players in Frederick County, and this year, as the lone senior on her team, she has led No. 13 Walkersville (22-1) to its most successful season. The Lions won their first region championship Saturday, and today at 3 p.m., will make their first appearance in the girls' state semifinals against Aberdeen (14-11) at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Harrison's timid trips to the foul line now feel like they occurred decades ago.
"Now it's kind of like my team looks to me for leadership," Harrison said. "I'm just thankful for the coaches that I had and the drive I had to push myself to get better."
Before high school, Harrison was a serious gymnast who trained year-round. During the summer before her freshman year at Walkersville, however, tendinitis in her shoulders forced Harrison to give up the sport.
Harrison decided to try out for the basketball team, and despite her inexperience, Walkersville Coach Mike Mathis immediately recognized the player she could become.
"Although she looked very raw and her offensive skills were very limited, you could see she had the innate ability to get into passing lanes and cause steals along with athletic ability," he said. "We knew we could teach her, and she'd be a great asset."
Harrison joined an AAU team after her freshman year and then made the Lions' varsity as a sophomore. She has been a first-team All-Monocacy Valley Athletic League selection since.
This year, Harrison has averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds per game, but she has done most of her damage on defense. Harrison has blocked 92 shots and made 78 steals to help the Lions yield just 30.7 points per game.
"She's strong and quick enough to cover post players, but she feels just as comfortable out on the wing," Urbana Coach Chris Krivos said. "She's truly a defensive gem for a coach. She's confident playing that role, but when they need her to score, she can."
And if that means making free throws, no problem. This year, the senior has made 66.7 percent of her attempts.
"Now if I miss, I get mad," Harrison said.