Entering this season, there were plenty of reasons to assume that the Albert Einstein High School girls basketball team was bound for another hapless campaign. But even though last year’s squad managed just two victories and lost MVP Ann-Marie Gabriel to graduation, coach Tim Hobbs knew help was on the way.
Freshman point guard Daisa Harris, who turned heads last year while leading her Newport Mill Middle School team to an undefeated season, has stepped into a starring role early in her high school career. With Harris’ ball-handling skills and athleticism leading the way, the Titans (4-11, 4-5 Montgomery 3A/2A) matched last season’s win total six games into this year’s schedule and hope to carry that momentum forward through the end of February.
According to Hobbs, Harris' confident ball-handling has been the main difference this year for Einstein.
"We didn't have a point guard last year that could really handle the pressure," Hobbs said. "When teams would come after us, we just had a lot of trouble, significant trouble. She has the ability where a team can come out and press us and we’re OK because she can handle the ball — that’s the bottom line. She makes plays, and the other team has to be aware of her."
Having Harris at the point position this year has allowed senior guard Tiffany Pennamon to focus on her outside shooting. As a result, Pennamon is averaging nearly 10 points per game on the season.
"She had to handle the ball some last year and it just completely took her out of her game," Hobbs said. "She’s a shooting guard and now, because of Daisa. She can play her natural position and she’s having an incredible season."
Harris has been the Titans' leading scorer this season, averaging close to 18 points a game entering Monday night's matchup at Watkins Mill. She has had several big nights, scoring 28 points in a double-overtime thriller at home against Northwood, matching that output with another 28 point effort at Rockville less than a week later and scoring a season-high 35 points in a loss at Poolsville. Perhaps not surprisingly for such a young player, Harris has had off games as well, failing to score in double figures in lopsided road losses to Damascus and Seneca Valley.
In addition to the play of Harris, Hobbs credits the leadership of seniors Angelica Patterson and Cassie Fox in keeping the team working together. Patterson, the Titans' starting center, is in her second year as team captain.
"She has the pulse of the team, she really does," Hobbs said of Patterson. "She leads by example with her work ethic in practice and the way she is as a person. She's just a great young lady."
The teamwork and unity displayed by the players on this year's squad has made them a pleasure to work with, Hobbs said.
"It’s one of those groups you wish you could just put in a bottle and have that kind of environment everyday, because it makes my job easy and makes going to practice and to games that much more fun."
With a 14-year-old point guard who should only improve with age and a junior varsity squad now being led by Harris' former Newport Mill coach Julian Barron, Hobbs sees a bright future ahead for Einstein.
"I think, all in all, with everything that’s gone on this year, we’re definitely on the right track, and the program has the most potential it’s had in the four years that I’ve been there," Hobbs said. "So, I’m excited about things."