With only a handful of returning varsity players from the 2006-07 season, and no members of last year's starting five, the upcoming '07-'08 campaign could come with its growing pains for the George Marshall High School girls varsity basketball team. The season's first games however, have yielded only pleasure for the young squad.
A pair of victories gave the Statesmen a season-opening championship, as Marshall claimed the Third Annual George C. Marshall Tip Off Tournament. With games spanning from November 28 – December 1, Marshall first knocked off Wakefield, 58-37, and then bested Lake Braddock, 46-41, in the championship.
When asked what proved to be the pivotal moment in the Lake Braddock game, Marshall Head Coach Noel Klippenstein pointed to a time when no players were even on the court — halftime.
“We needed to get through the second quarter to make an adjustment to our defense,” Klippenstein said. “It proved to be effective. Lake Braddock had a great couple minutes where they hit eight [points] in about a minute and 30 seconds.”
With the adjustments sketched out during the intermission, the Statesmen hung on to claim their second game in two days. Marshall missed its opening round game against West Potomac after a scheduling snafu forced West Potomac to back out of the tournament.
The Statesmen have received contributions from across their roster in the early going, with seven to eight players each recording points in the first two games.
“All five starters have stepped up in different moments of the first two games,” Klippenstein said. “They've shown that they earned their starting position.”
The head turning performance of the season so far belongs to senior Ali Johnson. One of only two seniors on the team, and one of three returning players from last year's Liberty District championship team, Johnson scored 26 points while grabbing 16 rebounds against Wakefield. Sophomore Theresa Hackett tallied eight points of her own, while freshman Carmen Mann contributed seven coming off of the bench.
The following night, when Lake Braddock dogged Johnson all night with a double team, Marshall's guards stepped up to fill the scoring void. Sophomore Carlie Zirkle led the Statesmen with 13 points and four rebounds, while junior Amanda Flynn scored eight points. Though slowed, Johnson was far from stopped, tallying seven points to go with 12 rebounds and three blocks. Hackett dished out five assists to pair with her five points on the night.
The Statesmen endured a lengthy stretch of off time, playing no games between the Lake Braddock win and their upcoming contest at Fairfax on Friday, Dec. 14. Marshall will then head East on Route Seven to play the J.E.B. Stuart Raiders on Dec. 18. That will serve as the Statesmen's final tune up before beginning Liberty District play on Dec. 21 against the rival Madison Warhawks.
Despite the annual grudge match — the two perennially battle for the top spot in the Liberty District — this year's contest with Madison will bare a markedly different look, given the new wave of talent present on the Marshall roster.
“We graduated all five starters and are basically starting all over and rebuilding leadership, fundamentals and game knowledge,” Klippenstein said. “Fortunately, all of the kids on the team are very motivated, coachable and fun to work with, so restarting has been fun.”