Long Reach Girls Basketball Aiming for First State Title
[caption id="attachment_3000" align="alignnone" width="300"] Courtesy of Israel Carunungan[/caption]
The Long Reach girls basketball team was the surprise team in Howard County last season.
Little was expected of the Lightning, especially coming off a season in which the team finished with a losing record and had a roster filled with inexperienced players. Instead, Long Reach announced itself as one of the premier teams in Howard County.
"We ended up 17-6 and lost to the eventual 2016 3A state champions, Glenelg, in the section final," head coach Kelli Cofield said. "I think we overachieved last year. We were able to surprise some teams during county play and competed at the top of our county standings throughout the season."
Despite the entire county knowing about Long Reach's prowess on the basketball court this season, the team has continued to win. The Lightning are 10-2, including a 5-1 mark in county play.
Athletically, Long Reach is as gifted as any group. The team doesn't start a traditional lineup of three guards and two forwards but rather five guards that use their sheer speed to play an uptempo brand of basketball few teams can keep up with.
When their opponents have the ball, the Lightning are already thinking about trying to start their offense. To them, a turnover leading to an open layup is the brand of basketball they want to play.
"We count our individual deflections and forced turnovers. In most games we are successful when we create defensive pressure and apply the same pressure on the offensive end. To that regard, I think the team has done well thus far," Cofield said. "Our girls work extremely hard. We are not big in number, but the girls go out and exert a lot of energy day in and day out."
Individually, Long Reach is led by Kiana Williams and Lyric Swann. Williams, a junior and the reigning Howard County Player of the Year, is averaging 15.2 and 8.5 rebounds a game. Swann, a sophomore and member of the All-County Second Team, is chipping 12.4 points per game.
The dynamic duo has plenty of support though. Sophomore Arianna Briggs-Hall has put together some monstrous performances this year, including one game in which she scored 26 points and hauled in 19 rebounds. Devon Williams, a senior, has anchored the group defensively while fellow senior Emily Joyce leads the team in shooting percentage. Off the bench, Jaelyn Swann has hit many deep shots for the Lightning, while Haley Thompson brings a ton of energy.
"This is a fun team to coach," Cofield said. "I am a fan of them all."
Looking ahead, Cofield and her players have big dreams for where this season could end up. Cofield feels as if a state championship, which would be the program's first, is within reach for her team, though the group will have to continue to improve.
"We know that if we take care of the little things in each game and practice, we will put ourselves in the best position to be successful in late February and March," Cofield said. "Most importantly, we want to go out each day and play hard, play together and just have fun."
|January 13th, 2017||By: Wick Eisenberg|