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They may be young this year, but a sister duo says that the Northern girls basketball team should not be overlooked or underestimated this season.

Their ultimate goal: Beat Calvert and capture the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title.

Sisters Naaila Cooke and Mykaela Bailey started playing AAU basketball together for the Lady Clippers and also for Southern Maryland Storm. Cooke, a senior point guard, said she is transferring what she’s learned from her AAU experience and applying that now as a team captain.

“We’re not just some team put together,” Cooke said. “We’re a team that they should look out for. We do work hard in every practice and I think we have a good chance at SMAC this season. We don’t quit.”

Cooke, a three year starter at Northern, said she’ll miss playing alongside her cousin Teara Smith, who graduated last year and is now at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, but she is excited to play with her sister and starting freshman, Bailey.

Bailey said she looks up to Cooke and the other captains on the team and aspires to follow in their successful footsteps. Both agreed that watching the 2012 United States Olympic team play this summer at the London Olympics made them more motivated to keep in shape and keep perfecting their game. Their AAU experience is assisting them at Northern.

“We’ve played AAU together ever since I can remember,” Cooke said, “and we also played at Northern Middle together. When you’re playing AAU, you’re constantly moving all the time because you’re on the road, it’s not stationary. You get to meet different people and see how they play. No two games are the same which is good exposure.”

Cooke said she and Bailey had to juggle AAU games and getting to Northern for tryouts so they’ve put a lot of miles between Charles and Calvert counties. They both enjoy playing an upbeat, faster tempo game.

“We like to get out on fast breaks,” Bailey said, “We don’t like to slow down. We like to keep the game going. We can’t wait to play Calvert this year.”

“There are times when we do get out of rhythm, where we don’t get our shot off or we’re not into the game,” Cooke said. “No one has the same game every single time we’re out there, so it’s definitely a learning experience because we’re learning throughout the process how to play with each other. Some of us already know each other so coming back this year makes things easier on us.”

Cooke is looking for another competitive SMAC schedule and the opportunities to play against their rival to the south, the Cavaliers.

Northern lost in both meetings last season against Calvert and Frank Moore, former Cavaliers head coach of 21 years, ironically now shares the gymnasium as he’s now coaching for the boys basketball team at Northern.

Cooke doesn’t really relive those memories as she sees Moore now. It may even be more motivation when facing Calvert.

“Yeah, that’s great,” Cooke said. “I guess he [Moore] just wanted to change things up. We just really want to play Calvert so bad. We’ve always had good competition against them and we’ve always had such a big rivalry with them. We’re all friends, but once we step on the court, …”

Cooke said she hasn’t decided on a college as of yet, but she’s sure about her major of vocal performance. Cooke is also a hurdler on the outdoor track and field team at Northern and is leaving that door open for college sports as well.

tshowalter@somdnews.com