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Carroll County Athletic League Winter Sports Previews: What to watch for girls basketball in 2021

Girls basketball in the Carroll County Athletic League was highlighted last season with milestones and big moments.

Liberty captured a regional championship, led by one of the program’s most prolific scorers eclipsing 1,000 career points in her senior season. Manchester Valley featured a 1,000-point scorer as well, for just the second time in its short history. Westminster secured its second CCAL title in three seasons, then held off Man Valley in overtime to win a classic regional playoff tilt.

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Three Carroll teams vied for regional titles, with Century battling Liberty in Class 2A West and the Owls going after a 3A East spot.

A new season is here, however, with more moments and milestones waiting for the next crop of varsity players. Let’s take a look at what to watch this winter.

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Three girls from the 2020 Times all-county first team are back this winter. Century junior forward Eva Brandt and Francis Scott Key sophomore Ally Mathias join Winters Mill senior guard Allie Cullison as returning first-teamers.

Brandt, who shot 41% from the floor, averaged 8.5 points and 10.1 rebounds in her sophomore season, and led Carroll in rebounds per game. She also helped Century go from a five-win team in 2018-19 — and zero Carroll County Athletic League wins — to a 12-12 (7-5) record last winter.

FSK struggled last season (4-20, 1-11) but Mathias shined with 11.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. She shot 63.5% at the free-throw line as well. Meanwhile, Cullison averaged 8.7 points and poured in 24 points during a county victory last season.

Winters Mill's Allie Cullison, right, dribbles up the court with the ball as South Carroll's Sydni Carroll defends on the play during a girls basketball game at Winters Mill High School on Thursday, Jan. 2.
Winters Mill's Allie Cullison, right, dribbles up the court with the ball as South Carroll's Sydni Carroll defends on the play during a girls basketball game at Winters Mill High School on Thursday, Jan. 2. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

A quick look back (and forward)

Liberty loses a pair of first-team all-county selections to graduation in guard Jordan Nastos and forward Rachel Thiem. It was Thiem who surpassed 1,000 career points during last season and finished with 1,135 — the second most in program history.

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Thiem, who is now at Washington College, earned three first-team all-county nods during her high school career. She was an all-state selection last year as well for Class 2A-1A.

The Lions bring back plenty of talent from last season led by junior guard Jess Littlejohn and senior swing player Alex Bull, both second-team picks last winter.

The county’s other 1,000-point scorer from a year ago among the CCAL came from Man Valley senior Amelia Saunders, who led Carroll in scoring (17.8 ppg) and added 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 3.6 steals. Saunders finished her Mavericks career with 1,061 points and became the second player in program history to get there.

Saunders, the reigning Times Player of the Year and a 4A-3A all-state selection, moved on to play at the college level at De Sales University. The Mavs do return sophomore Carmaya Bowman (6.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg) after she earned second-team all-county honors in 2020.

Westminster’s county title season was fueled by senior Lillian Harris, who scored 16.1 points and grabbed 6.4 rebounds per game in helping the Owls to a 16-8 record (10-2 CCAL). She also garnered 4A-3A all-state mention.

Harris, a Times Player of the Year candidate who transferred back to Westminster after spending two years at private school, committed to CCBC-Essex after last winter. Jillian Pumputis (7.5 ppg), a senior guard, returns for Westminster after back-to-back second-team all-county seasons.

Liberty's Jess Littlejohn controls the ball as she waits for the play to develop during a girls basketball game at Francis Scott Key High School on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
Liberty's Jess Littlejohn controls the ball as she waits for the play to develop during a girls basketball game at Francis Scott Key High School on Tuesday, Dec. 17. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Time to tip off

The 2021 winter season starts Wednesday with three games, led by a rematch of last year’s 2A West Region 1 title game between Century and Liberty. The Lions rolled past the Knights in the 2020 playoffs, 63-42, to win the program’s third regional crown, before having its season ended by Middletown in the state quarterfinals.

The reigning county champion Owls host South Carroll on Wednesday, and Winters Mill visits Francis Scott Key. Man Valley and Westminster renew their rivalry Friday night in Westminster, where the Owls clipped the Mavericks 46-45 in overtime in the 3A East Region 1 semifinals a year ago.

Winters Mill has a new coach in Olivia Bowersox, who takes over for David Wynne after Wynne moved over to lead the boys program. Bowersox, a Falcons alum, earned first-team all-county honors as a senior in 2007.

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