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Amelia Saunders’ role has ‘exponentially’ grown as Manchester Valley’s court leader

Manchester Valley senior Amelia Saunders goes to the basket during the second half of the Mavericks' 47-44 win over the Lions in Eldersburg Monday, Feb. 10, 2020.
Manchester Valley senior Amelia Saunders goes to the basket during the second half of the Mavericks' 47-44 win over the Lions in Eldersburg Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Amelia Saunders has had a basketball in her hand for as long as she can remember.

The Manchester Valley High School senior guard worked her way up through recreational leagues from age 3 and started playing AAU in fourth grade, coached by her father. Her older sisters Abby and Anne also played basketball, and Saunders said learning from them helped her gain a better understanding of the sport as well.

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Saunders said she played softball and volleyball before high school, but basketball has been her general point of focus for 15 years.

“My family used to play pick-up games, parents versus kids, and I would go to my sister’s games and watch them play,” Saunders said. “I would watch the players they played against and the players on their teams, so I just learned. We always watched basketball, college and NBA, it doesn’t matter.

“I always found things that other players did that I thought were amazing and I wanted to learn it and work on it.”

Saunders said her sisters were bigger and stronger than she was back then and they would challenge her on defense to help her perfect her skills. Abby Saunders played basketball at Winters Mill, and is the current junior varsity basketball coach at Man Valley. Amelia Saunders played with oldre sister Anne played together for two years before Anne graduated in 2018.

Saunders, who scored 20 points Tuesday in a Carroll County Athletic League win over Liberty, leads the county with 17.2 points per game with 327 points through 19 games. She also leads the CCAL with 3.7 steals per game and is third in 3-point shooting percentage (28.8).

She is closing in on 1,000 points for her career with 961 to date.

“I think Amelia’s role has grown exponentially over the last four years,” Mavericks coach Heather DeWees said. “She was initially a freshman shooting guard surrounded by these three wonderful point guards who passed her the ball whenever she was open. Everybody was doubling her while tripling Jayce [Klingenberg], Josey [Klingenberg] and Mackenzie [DeWees]. Now she understands that position those girls were in and she knows how important it is to hit that shot.”

DeWees said Saunders is very unselfish with the basketball and tries to distribute it accordingly, especially because she is heavily guarded so often. Her playing time was limited through her first two years as she recovered from a knee injury, but playing alongside Mackenzie DeWees, the county’s all-time leading scorer, and the Klingenberg sisters prepared her to take on a leadership role once she returned to full strength.

“We hid her baby in the corner because she couldn’t move very well,” DeWees said. “She spent two years with a swollen knee and now that she’s able to play the way she knows how to play and be free of that pain, I think you’re seeing a piece of that healing coming out in her game as well.”

Teamwork is where Saunders thrives best on the court and she almost always finds a way to drive the ball to the net or hand it off to the next available player. She’s one of five seniors on this year’s roster and has taken her role as a captain in stride.

The Mavericks are 11-8 with seven county wins this winter and are on a three-game win streak with three games remaining in the regular season.

“Coach Heather holds all of her players accountable in school, in life, on the court, and that’s a very strong piece of our program,” Saunders said. “All of our girls are successful in the classroom and it translates to that personality and character on the court. I think Coach Heather teaches grit in working hard, moving on from mistakes, growing and learning from them and becoming good basketball players.

“Even if basketball isn’t your main sport, you’re going to work for it and if you’re a part of this program, you’re going to work to do what needs to be done.”

Saunders said she intends to play basketball at DeSales University and major in biology upon graduating in June, and she’s elated at the opportunity to play at the next level.

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“Of course, it’s going to be a lot different than Carroll County basketball but the coach has been talking with me a lot,” Saunders said. “I’m just excited to meet the girls and see what it’s like and get the hang of it.”

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