In this week’s notebook, we cover Bishop McNamara, Tuscarora, Poolesville and Douglass.
Bishop McNamara is young, talented and undefeated: Last season, Bishop McNamara forward Jakia Brown-Turner averaged 16.7 points as a sophomore. That’s a number that can draw attention, even in a conference as talented as the WCAC. Heading into this season, McNamara Coach Frank Oliver knew that opponents would hone in on her.
“She’s the focal point of most scouting reports,” Oliver said.
But that preparation hasn’t paid off for McNamara’s opponents. On Friday, Bishop Ireton threw some double teams at Brown-Turner but she still put up 20 points. In fact, the junior and her team are both playing better than ever. Brown-Turner is averaging 26 points a game and the Mustangs are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play.
“I’ve just been focused on making shots,” Brown-Turner said.
The beginning of a season can be especially tough in the WCAC, where nonconference opponents often come from other parts of the country and carry daunting reputations. But the No. 13 Mustangs have coasted thus far, their closest win being a nine-point victory over Miami Country Day.
Brown-Turner hasn’t had to do it all in this early hot streak, finding plenty of supporting help from junior guard Aliyah Matharu. In a 71-52 win over O’Connell, Matharu and Brown-Turner outscored the Knights by themselves, combing for 58 points.
“Sometimes too much attention is on Jakia, and Aliyah has taken advantage of the opportunity,” Oliver said. “She’s a key part of everything we do.”
With only one senior on the roster, the young Mustangs rely on their two junior scorers to set the tone as captains as they navigate a tough WCAC — a conference the team hasn’t won since 2008.
“We can’t take any days off in practice, every day is about effort,” Brown-Turner said. “And every day is about being a leader.”
Tuscarora is the class of Loudoun County: In each of the past three seasons, Tuscarora lost before the New Year, won 20 or more games and fell in the state tournament. Unlike the past three seasons, the Huskies do not have an opponent from Fairfax County on their nonconference schedule this winter.
Still, without early measuring sticks against contenders like Edison or Oakton, Tuscarora has senior Kennedy Middleton and an established team to fuel optimism.
“We’re 6-0 without the most ambitious schedule compared to the last two years, but in my opinion we still stack up with anyone in Class 5,” Coach Michael Newkirk said. “Tradition never graduates, so we have the same expectations.”
The Potomac District gained three schools before this year which restricted teams’ flexibility with their nonconference schedules. The Huskies will keep their attention within Loudoun County, where they are 34-1 over the past three seasons.
Middleton, a 5-foot-9 small forward who guards all five positions, leads No. 18 Tuscarora (6-0) with 19.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Her younger sister, sophomore Isabellah Middleton, is second on the team with 16.7 points per game.
“Kennedy attacks the rim, and teams know this so they have focused on her, but she is finishing at the rim at another level,” Newkirk said. “I wanted to see how she would adapt to the added attention as a senior, and she is creating offense every night when she touches the ball.”
In Loudoun, Potomac District rival Stone Bridge (5-0) is the only other girls’ basketball team without a loss. The Huskies visit the Bulldogs on Wednesday night.
‘Old School’ Poolesville refuses to adapt: Poolesville Coach Fred Swick refuses to change his ways. He doesn’t care for the rapid ball movement and long-range shooting that has come to define this era, from professional basketball down to youth ball.
The Falcons run a double-post offense, with 6-foot-3 center Erin Green and 6-foot-2 forward Julia Hobbs occupying the blocks. Point guard Kelliann Lee kicks the ball inside and lets the two senior bigs go to work. It’s simple. It’s predictable. And it works.
“We’re old school,” said Swick, whose team is off to a 4-0 start.
Lee, a 6-foot senior, posts up on occasion, too. She’s averaging 13.5 points per game, the second-highest total on the team behind Green (14.5 points), who Swick said balances out the more physical Hobbs with a finesse style of play and silky shooting touch.
Green, who has blocked 20 shots in four games, also anchors No. 12 Poolesville’s 3-2 zone defense. The Falcons spread defenders along the perimeter, daring drivers to attack Green and Lee in the paint.
“Erin has a knack for timing and blocking shots without getting into foul trouble,” Swick said. “She’s tall, has a really good reach and extends her arms up. She blocks shots just from being in position.”
Three of the Falcons’ four victories have come by at least 34 points, including a 68-30 win at Walter Johnson last Friday. They return to action Monday against Quince Orchard, a team with one player taller than 6-feet. Don’t expect Swick to change his ways.
“I expect us to be one of the best teams in MoCo,” he said.
With several new additions, Douglass is poised for a playoff run: Douglass opened its season with a pair of out-of-conference victories over Marriotts Ridge and Lackey, all while in the early stages of coming together as a team after welcoming plenty of new faces.
“Right now we’re just working on our chemistry,” Coach Derwyn Faulkner said.
The Eagles added three transfers and an impact freshman to a core highlighted by senior Danyelle Riddick, who finished last season ranked 20th in the area in rebounds while averaging a double-double.
Brenae Ford (Duval), Ebony Hansberry (Riverdale Baptist) and Kailah Major-Taylor (Riverdale Baptist) all transferred in, while 5-foot-10 freshman Nia Ford is already among the team leaders in scoring.
“I have a lot of shooters on the wings, I have guards that can score and distribute,” Faulkner said. “It’s just a different team this year. We’re extremely deep.”
As the group, which features just two seniors, molds into one cohesive unit, Faulkner expects to see a team that can make a deep run into the state tournament both this year and beyond.
“The skill level this year is higher than probably any other year that I’ve been coaching at Frederick Douglass,” the sixth-year head coach said.