Carroll County Times
Carroll County High School Sports

Manchester Valley girls basketball employs defensive mindset on way to Carroll County championship

Kyrsten Lucas summed up the entire sport of basketball in seven words: “If they can’t score, they can’t win.”

It’s a mantra that Lucas’ Mavericks take to heart, and one that’s carried them to the Carroll County championship.


“I think defense is probably our biggest strength,” junior Carmaya Bowman said. “Even when we can’t shoot, we always kind of fall back to defense. That’s what we use to motivate us and carry us in games, especially close ones.”

“I think a lot of our offense is started through our defense,” Lucas added. “Our press and our defense when we communicate with each other, we’re able to rotate, we’re able to get some crucial stops.”


Coach Heather DeWees picked up the defensive-first mindset as a player at Mount St. Mary’s and brought it with her when she took the job at Manchester Valley 13 years ago. She’s instilled that philosophy in her players and it’s helped guide these Mavericks to a 19-2 record, including a 10-1 Carroll County mark that has clinched the county title with one game remaining.

“Our defense is the backbone of our team,” she said. “We’re extremely proficient on defense. We hold most teams under 40 points, definitely under 50, but our goal is 40 or under.”

Only five opponents have topped the 40-point threshold against Manchester Valley, a team that aims to force opponents into mistakes.

Manchester Valley's Carmaya Bowman puts defensive pressure on Francis Scott Key's Ally Mathias.

“It’s not stealing the ball necessarily. We don’t preach that,” DeWees said. “We don’t preach to steal the ball from a player. We preach to play good defense on the person with the ball so they make a bad pass, so they travel, so they double-dribble. We press a lot. We want to create errors from the other team. ... Our goal is to play clean solid defense and make them mess up.”

The team most successful at cracking Manchester Valley’s defensive shell was Liberty, which beat the Mavericks, 66-56, on Dec. 17. But that also served as a turning point for the Mavericks’ season.

“When we had our first loss, we decided we didn’t really want to lose again,” Lucas said. “We know we’re a good team, we know our strengths and weaknesses. I think we all just work together, we really just wanted to win.”

Manchesyer Valley's Autumn Stottlemire drives to the basket during a game against Westminster on Feb. 16.

After that initial loss, Manchester Valley won 15 straight, including a rematch against Liberty on Jan. 21.

“When we beat Liberty, that was a big moment,” Bowman said. “We knew we could beat them after we lost to them the first time. So after we beat them, we knew we could go far and become county champions.”


“When we beat Liberty the second time playing them, we played together as a team so much there, and we saw all the potential and all the hard work what we’ve been working toward,” Lucas added. “We all saw it come together.

Over the course of the season, many Carroll County programs have had ups and downs. Manchester Valley, though, maintained its strong run. A big reason is the team’s offensive balance.

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“We have a lot of people who are contributing offensively,” DeWees said. “We don’t really have anybody averaging double figures. Carmaya Bowman is leading us in scoring at around nine or 10 points a game. For the most part, I’ve probably got Carmaya Bowman, Kyrsten Lucas, Taylor Leaman, Resse Kresslein, they’re all averaging between six and nine points a game. Then I got another group of kids averaging between four and six points a game.”

Three Manchester Valley defenders converge on Westminter's Taylor Speigle during a game on Feb. 16.

The team preaches unselfishness. If a player has an off night, there’s other ways to help and other players to fill the score sheet.

“We know that if the offense isn’t going how we planned, or for me, if my shots aren’t falling, I look to play defense,” Bowman said, “try to help the team in other ways like rebounding, boxing out, also giving assists, getting others to score.”

Manchester Valley goes for its 20th win of the season when it plays at Westminster on Monday, with the playoffs following.


“We’re looking forward to playoffs,” DeWees said. “Obviously, Howard is going to be a huge threat, they have multiple Division I recruits on their team. ... We’re excited for the tournament, we’re excited to finish out our season. We take every game one game at a time.”

Lucas believes the team already has the formula for playoff success.

“We’re working hard and we’re keeping our heads up,” she said. “We just need to continue what we’re doing, not playing afraid and playing confident. We’ve put in the work so we should have the confidence to go into the playoffs as the team we know we can be.”