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Chances are Manchester Valley and Westminster will each chalk up Friday’s Carroll County Athletic League boys basketball clash as a learning tool.

The Mavericks committed 19 turnovers to the Owls’ 20. Man Valley missed nine of its 21 free-throw attempts; Westminster missed eight of 22. Both county squads are still searching for their identities, but the Owls did enough to come out on top in a 60-52 victory.

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There were positives across the court Friday evening, from MV senior Brett DeWees’ game-high 24 points to Westminster senior Denio Blaney scoring 10 of his team-best 16 points in the fourth quarter. And the Owls improved to 4-1 by winning their CCAL opener.

Westminster senior Nico Graham is covered by Manchester Valley's Connor Rugguri during the first half of their game in Westminster Friday, Dec. 20, 2019.
Westminster senior Nico Graham is covered by Manchester Valley's Connor Rugguri during the first half of their game in Westminster Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County TImes)

Their staple has been a pressure-centric defense, and Friday’s game was no different. Westminster trailed by six points midway through the third quarter before closing the frame on an 11-0 run, then opening the fourth with a 7-3 spurt that widened the gap.

Owls coach Brett Kanther said things are coming along, but “it’s early.”

“Defensively, it’s kind of our trademark," he said. “I mean, it’s what what we do well and we’re consistent.”

Westminster held Manchester Valley (2-2, 1-1) for the final 5:34 of the third quarter to help swing momentum its way.

DeWees sank a 3-pointer from the left corner with 2:28 to play that cut the Owls’ lead to 52-47, but Blaney responded two possessions later with a three-point play of his own. A pair of cutting layups from junior Erick Stranko after back-to-back missed shots by Man Valley sealed the win for Westminster.

The Mavericks used a 12-0 run to take a 36-30 lead early in the third, backed by a pair of long 3-pointers by DeWees. The second of those came from about 25 feet away at the buzzer to cap the first half.

But Westminster stiffened on defense in the second half, and the Mavs converted a mere three field goals after leading by six in the third quarter.

“We just had to pick up our intensity,” said Blaney, who added seven rebounds. “Our defense was a little lackadaisical. We had to come out and get the ‘Dub.’”

DeWees had 10 rebounds, and guard JaQuan Dukes added nine points and four steals. Dahon Saunders handed out three assists as well. But the Mavericks were done in by inconsistent play, said first-year coach Chris Wunder.

Manchester Valley senior Dahon Saunders drives down the court during the first half of the Mavericks' loss to the Owls in Westminster Friday, Dec. 20, 2019.
Manchester Valley senior Dahon Saunders drives down the court during the first half of the Mavericks' loss to the Owls in Westminster Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County TImes)

“We’re inexperienced, so our inexperience tends to turnovers,” Wunder said. “We try to do too much individually instead of using [our] teammates. So, it’s a work in progress, a lot of new guys playing with each other. Just learning how to work with each other.”

Stranko and senior guard Mike Prozeller each scored nine for the Owls, and Tyler Buberl added four rebounds and three steals. Westminster hits the road next week for holiday tournament action in Glen Burnie before returning home Jan. 3 to take on Glenelg.

“We take big pride in our defense,” Blaney said. “Defense is our main thing. Defense, and then getting out and just running. It’s all a process. We’re getting it. We’ve added a couple of transfers, but we’ll get through it. We just need to take each of their strengths and contribute it to the team.”

Man Valley (52): JaQuan Dukes 9, Zach Bowen 4, Chris Wunder 2, Brett DeWees 24, Kyle Brady 2, Connor Rugguri 5, Dahon Saunders 6.

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Westminster (60): Denio Blaney 16, Tyler Buberl 4, Chandler Gentzel 6, Nico Graham 4, Alan Jean Joseph 5, Connor Levinson 7, Mike Prozeller 9, Erick Stranko 9.

Halftime: Tied, 30-30.

JV result: Westminster won.

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