This Maryland high school player profiles series is presented by the U.S. Army.
By Wesley Brown, CountySportsZone.com
Bel Air High School’s girls’ basketball program reached new heights during the 2019-20 season, as the Bobcats won county and regional championships while also having two first-team all-county performers.
For head coach Calvin Skelton, this success is a byproduct of simply having fun and keeping things light throughout the winter. The team had a lot of great athletes, but none of them considered basketball to be their main sport, according to Skelton.
“The culture is positive, and they all buy in,” Skelton said. “Lack of any ‘basketball ego’ leads them to trust me more. In practice I have to answer the ‘why’ a lot as to my thinking, but once I explain what can happen if we don’t do it this way, they understand.”
Athletes on the team considered many different sports to be their No. 1 option, including senior Maggi Hall, the No. 1 girls’ lacrosse player in Maryland and No. 7 player nationally in the 2020 class, according to Inside Lacrosse.
“Many of the girls would say something to the tune of, ‘Lacrosse is my favorite sport, but basketball is my favorite season,’” Skelton said.
This past season, the Bobcats jumped out to a 16-0 start and thrived on the defensive end.
“My coaches and I sit down at the beginning of every season and think, ‘What can we do with what we have?’” Skelton said.
Athleticism is one talent the staff can count on year in and year out, which also helps in close matchups. The team had nine wins by 10 points or fewer thanks to wearing out some teams and finishing strong.
Skelton said he likes to keep things light and fun during the season with field trips, get-togethers outside of the gym and entertaining games in practice. Though they didn’t get to go this past season, the team likes to take an annual trip to the local Chuck E. Cheese to have a good time.
“After one of our losses this season, I remember someone saying ‘I wouldn’t want to be in your practice today,’” Skelton recalled. “When we opened up practice, I had some dodgeballs laid in the center of the floor, and we just had fun for 20-30 minutes before talking about what we could do better.”
“Playing dodgeball at practice was a fun way to get our minds off a big loss,” senior Olivia Simon said. “Sometimes after a loss there is a bit of tension within the team, so playing a game like dodgeball is a fun way to encourage teamwork, communication, competitiveness and strategy so we can be ready to play basketball again.”
Bel Air defeated Aberdeen High School, 38-33, for the 3A North Region II championship but fell to Frederick High School, 58-31, in the state quarterfinal.
“The school always supported and cheered us on,” Simon said. “As we kept winning, more people rallied around us. Especially during the school day, a lot of my peers and teachers would come up to me and ask about the team and our games. It was really cool that some people even traveled all the way to Frederick to watch us in the state quarterfinal game. Even though we didn’t come out with a win, I think the whole school was really proud of everything we accomplished.”
Despite the bittersweet ending, Skelton and his squad did what they know best — heading to Chick-fil-A to have a fun meal together.