The Northern girls’ basketball team has increased its win total in each of the past four seasons, and after a productive week, the Patriots are somewhat improbably on pace to do that again.
Following an impressive, albeit sloppy, 39-36 win over Southern Maryland Athletic Conference and Maryland 3A South rival Chopticon (15-4, 7-2 SMAC) on Friday, Northern is 12-6 — one win behind last season’s total with three regular season games to play, and solidly in the upper-half of the top-heavy SMAC.
“We’re starting to play some of our best basketball right now,” Northern Coach Brad Kingsbury said. “We’re playing better and better each week and that’s the key as we get ready for the [region] tournament.”
The Patriots have gotten a major contribution from its freshman class, which has complemented the program’s decorated four-year seniors, guard Naaila Cooke (11 points per game) and center Mauri Miller (10 ppg, 10 rebounds per game).
Freshman forward Makaele Bailey is already the Patriots’ leading scorer, averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds per game, while freshman guard Natalie LaPlaca leads the team with 4.4 assists per game and averages about seven points.
“At the start of the season, we didn’t know what we’d have,” Kingsbury said. “You never know who might walk through your door in August when school starts. We’ve had some nice surprises with our freshmen.”
After letting a 17-point lead slip away in a nonconference game against Friendship Collegiate earlier this month, the Patriots rededicated themselves to defense, and allowed just 38.3 points per game in three straight wins last week over SMAC opponents Great Mills, McDonough and Chopticon.
Northern still hasn’t won more than one playoff game in any of Kingsbury’s three seasons, but the Chopticon win has the Patriots thinking this could be the season their regular-season improvements translates into more postseason success
“To advance in the region, that’s the type of team we know we have to get past,” Kingsbury said. “That was a big confidence builder for us. . . . We want to get past the second round.”