Guard Alayna Arnolie (pictured) and her twin sister, Grace, both play for Madison. They represent one of several relative pairings on the Warhawks. (Photo courtesy/Albert Jacquez) (Albert S Jacquez /Albert Jacquez)

In basketball, many teams have a culture resembling that of a family. Madison takes it literally.

Several of the Warhawks’ key pieces have relatives on the team; Coach Kirsten Stone and assistant coach Meredith Renard are sisters, as are junior guard Theodora Makrigiorgos and sophomore guard Amalia Makrigiorgos, who are both starters.

Madison also has two sets of twins that come off the bench: freshmen guards Grace and Alayna Arnolie and freshmen Jillian and Kathryn Koshuta.

“It’s an interesting dynamic,” Stone said, laughing. “Sisters can yell at sisters, and you move on. It brings intensity, but you can challenge each other without it having to be be bad or mean — it’s just a challenge.”

Stone admitted that even her and her sister get in fights on the sideline from time to time, but having a lot of family members on a team helps build a different kind of culture, which has proved helpful for Madison.

With five freshmen on varsity, the Warhawks weren’t sure what to expect heading into the season, but family ties have helped them go 17-5, including nine straight wins and a 8-0 record in Concorde District play.

“I finally have a group that all love the game, and that’s the most fun part,” Stone said. “When you’re with people you like, it helps.”

Grace Arnolie leads Madison averaging 12.0 points, but Stone said there’s not one particular star player and that the Warhawks’ depth allows them rotate players, given the situation.

Madison will face Westfield in its final game of the regular season before heading into the postseason.

— Sammi Silber

Long Reach rebounds after “wake-up call”

As the Maryland 3A runner-up last year, Long Reach suffered only three losses. And after adding high-caliber transfers and graduating just one player, the Lightning was considered a heavy favorite to repeat as county champion and make another deep run in the playoffs.

So when the team lost two of its first three games and three of the first five to start this season, the Lightning found itself in an unfamiliar place.

“It surprised us because we weren’t used to losing last year,” guard Lyric Swann said. “It was basically a wake-up call.”

But Long Reach was unfazed by its early struggles. From film study, the players worked on technical parts of the game such as boxing out. Since the calendar turned to 2019, Long Reach (11-4, 11-2 Howard County) has won nine of its 10 games and is now tied for first place in the county standings with Oakland Mills.

“If we were peaking in December, I would be upset,” Coach Kelli Cofield said. “They’re doing exactly what we need them to do at this point as we near the playoffs.”

A win over Howard (14-3, 10-3) Tuesday would be a huge momentum booster for Long Reach as it gets ready to make another rumble in the playoffs.

“I don’t think pressure of having high expectations bothered us,” Swann said. “We’ve been doing well and we’ve always known we had a target on our back. We just go out there knowing teams are working hardest to knock us off.”

— David J. Kim

Georgetown Visitation buckles down for the homestretch

In each of the past 12 seasons, Georgetown Visitation has won at least a share of the ISL AA title. This year, the Cubs are 19-3 and feature their typical array of talent. But they have an added purpose now because there’s a team sitting atop them in the conference standings.

Two weeks ago, Sidwell Friends took down Visitation for the first time since 2006. The young and athletic Quakers are undefeated in ISL play.

“For whatever reason, we looked like we didn’t have our ‘A’ game that night,” Visitation Coach Mike McCarthy said. “We didn’t play with energy.”

The two teams will meet again in the final game of the regular season on Feb. 20, and McCarthy is hoping his team will enter that matchup having learned the lessons from last month’s loss.

“They did what they needed to do, and we didn’t,” McCarthy said. “But I think they’ll see a different defensive team the next time we play them. Hopefully.”

Visitation’s defense has been key to its success this season and could play a role in determining the conference’s champion. In wins, the Cubs have allowed an average of 35 points.

“Our defense has been getting really good and we want to win with defense,” McCarthy said. “We know we can score but we need to keep shutting people down.”

-Michael Errigo

Suitland’s defense shines against High Point

At the beginning of the season, Suitland mainly played a 2-3 zone defense. Looking for a way to raise his team’s defensive intensity, Coach Keith Lynch switched his team’s scheme to man-to-man.

Now, the Rams are starting to hit their stride on the defensive end. They gave up just two points — yes, two (2) points — in their win over High Point on Thursday.

“They’re starting to understand what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Lynch said. “That’s been definitely a plus.”

While Suitland’s defense has become stingier, Lynch also made his offense more dynamic. The team’s leading scorer, guard Dajinee Gatling, usually plays on the wing. Since Suitland played Eleanor Roosevelt on Jan. 25, Lynch has also assigned Gatling backup point guard duties.

Now, Suitland (11-4) has a reliable ball handler on the court at anytime, between Gatling and Lauren Strachan.

“All season she’s been doing well,” Lynch said of Gatling. “The last few games, she’s really stepped her game up. She’s taking initiative to take her game to another level and taking on that leadership role.”

Twice, Suitland has lost to Eleanor Roosevelt and C.H. Flowers, top Prince George’s County and Maryland 4A South contenders. But Lynch said the Rams’ cohesion is improving entering the playoffs this month.

— Kyle Melnick

Correction: A previous version of this story said Coach Kirsten Stone and head trainer Hannah Stone are sisters. They are not related.