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Kudos to those Carroll County winter athletes who went out on top

If the coronavirus pandemic spells the end of high school sports this year, and it’s looking more and more like that will be the case, Carroll County has a successful winter on which to reminisce.

The second of the school year’s three scheduled sports seasons saw championships, milestones, and accomplishments across basketball, wrestling, and indoor track. The Times recognized the best of the best with All-County and Player of the Year packages. The athletes and teams that took their talents to another level in the winter of 2019-20, before social distancing became a real thing, deserve another shout-out.

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Century’s boys and Westminster’s girls captured Carroll County Athletic League basketball titles. The Knights won their fifth county crown since 2014, while the Owls earned their second in three seasons.

Century had three players average 10 or more points per game, led by sharp-shooting junior guard Noah Riley. Riley and senior Justin Wunder combined for 144 made 3-pointers, and Riley’s 74 set a team record. The Knights posted 20 wins for the seventh time in program history under coach George Wunder.

Manchester Valley senior Brett DeWees, left, jumps to take a shot while defended by Century's John Pavlick during the first half of their game in Manchester Friday, Jan. 3, 2020.
Manchester Valley senior Brett DeWees, left, jumps to take a shot while defended by Century's John Pavlick during the first half of their game in Manchester Friday, Jan. 3, 2020.(Dylan Slagle/Carroll County TImes)

Century and Liberty met in the regional final. The Lions lost to the Knights twice in the regular season, but put together a near-perfect game plan to take out their rivals, 54-38, and win their first regional title in school history.

Century, Westminster, and Liberty were the top three boys teams, but Manchester Valley senior Brett DeWees earned Player of the Year honors after leading the county in scoring and rebounding. DeWees posted 10 double-doubles and also averaged 2.3 steals per game. Not bad for someone who plans on playing baseball in college.

Meanwhile, Westminster senior guard Chandler Gentzel made the most of his one season with the Owls. The former Winters Mill scorer surpassed 1,000 career points (1,116) and put together another all-county season.

Man Valley senior Amelia Saunders eclipsed 1,000 career points as well this season en route to earning Player of the Year honors. Saunders averaged 17.8 points per game and scored 19 in MV’s playoff win over Centennial.

That set up a third showdown with county champ Westminster, and the Owls prevailed in overtime, reaching the regional title game fueled by their own go-to player in forward Lillian Harris. She returned to Westminster after spending two years at St. John’s Catholic Prep in Frederick, and put together a dominant senior season with 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Liberty won its first regional title in a decade, with senior Rachel Thiem powering the Lions to the state quarterfinals. Thiem went for 14.7 points and 8.6 rebounds this year, and finished with 1,135 career points — two shy of becoming Liberty’s all-time leader.

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Moving to the mat, county champion South Carroll crowned three champions at the annual state wrestling tournament. All three were freshmen — Michael Pizzuto won at 106 pounds, Gage Owen at 120, and AJ Rodrigues at 126. The three Cavaliers crafted a combined 147-5 record, and Pizzuto finished 50-0 on his way to becoming Times Wrestler of the Year.

Five wrestlers from Manchester Valley reached their 100th career win this winter, one the Mavericks won’t soon forget. They won 40 dual meets, claimed their first CCAL tournament title, and competed in the Class 3A state dual-meet finals after capturing their first regional championship.

A week or so after Man Valley’s state duals appearance, many of the county’s top athletes gathered for the indoor track state meet.

South Carroll won the team title by one-half point, led by Athlete of the Year Grace Siehler. The junior won county, region, and state titles in the 1,600-meter run (she was coming off a Cross Country Runner of the Year effort in the fall).

Century’s boys took fourth at states, but won a 10th consecutive county meet title a few weeks earlier. The Knights had plenty of standout perfmances, but none larger than Chett Brunner’s shot putting. The senior took down a Carroll meet record that lasted for 12 years when he uncorked a throw of 53 feet, 9.75 inches.

Brunner won county, region, and state shot put titles en route to earning Times Athlete of the Year honors.

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The winter season started Dec. 5 and ended March 7, giving the county a three-month stretch with plenty to celebrate. It could be a while before we’re celebrating high school sports again.

Pat Stoetzer is the Times’ sports editor. Reach him at pat.stoetzer@carrollcountytimes.com.

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