WYE MILLS - After four starters departed from last year’s team, some Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference coaches might think the Chesapeake College women’s basketball team would show signs of decline this season.
A warning to them: Chesapeake is Chesapeake again. It’s common for the Skipjacks to win more than 20 games under veteran coach Gwen Barnes, and this season should be no different. The Skipjacks defeated Frederick Community College 86-75 at home on November 29.
Barnes has a simple answer to her team’s rosy outlook: Returning starter and sophomore point guard Ayanni Brown, two productive sophomore transfers, Aniya Jones and Tye Queen and blossoming sophomore guard Bryah Henry.
The Skipjacks haven’t had this many good shooters and overall team speed since Barnes first season on the job in 2013.
“We can be very good,” said Barnes, whose team started the season 3-1. “I can only start five players, but those I put in off the bench, I know I am not missing a beat. We go 10 deep in terms. We are good enough to win regionals and go back to nationals.”
Chesapeake has won the region three times and advanced to three national tournaments under Barnes, a ninth-year coach.
For a team to experience a lot of success, a quality point guard is essential.
And the Skipjacks certainly have one in the 5-3 Brown, a graduate of Meade High in Anne Arundel County.
Brown impressed enough during her freshman year that the National Junior College Athletic Association invited her and 39 other players to a showcase tournament in Atlanta in July.
“She is being recruited by colleges,” Barnes said of what came out of the event. “There has been interest from all levels whether it's Division I or NAIA.”
Brown leads the team in rebounding (averages 9.8) and ranks second in scoring.
She makes crucial baskets and distributes the basketball with sound judgement.
Brown enjoys feeding the ball to two new teammates, Queen, a transfer from Wilmington University, and Jones, who arrived from State University of New York Delhi.
Queen, a 5-foot-10 forward unleashes her intensity inside and never backs down from a challenge. She’s second on the team in rebounding (9.0) and is an offensive weapon.
“Tye can really protect the paint for us,” Barnes said. “She brings a lot of strength in that area, but she can also shoot the ball.”
Jones, a 5-foot-8 sophomore forward, has a nice outside shot, is a tenacious defender and rugged under the basket
“Aniya has really impressed me,” Brown said. “She has so much grit and talent. I really like her all-around game.”
If Barnes had to pick an early-season most valuable player, then the 5-foot-10 Henry would probably get some votes. She’s averaging 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the field.
“I have seen a lot of growth in her,” Barnes said. “She has gotten quicker and is a more accurate shooter.”
The play of two freshmen, guards Deleon Foster and Da’Myni Johnson can’t be overlooked. They are rotating at one starting position.
This is one of Barnes’ deepest teams. Freshman forward Deamani Davis, freshmen guard Leondrea Nichols, Grace Ortiz and Maya Hawkins Bailey, provide solid minutes off the bench.
Since a season-opening loss to Monroe College, the Skipjacks have edged Lackawanna College and routed Community College of Allegheny County and Hagerstown Community College.
“When we get on the court, the chemistry and the fire is right there,” Brown said. We are so determined to win.”