In a game between two teams fighting to stay in contention for the Carroll County girls basketball championship, Westminster’s Kaylen Battle and Maddy Gassman led the Owls to a 44-34 victory over Manchester Valley on Friday.
The win not only gave the Owls their 12th win, but served as a testament to the team’s growth throughout the season as they continue to win while missing two key players due to injury.
The Owls’ seemingly flawless execution began from the opening tip as Battle got the scoring going with two 3-pointers in just the first few possessions of the game. Battle, who finished with 12 points, was constantly left open by a Manchester Valley defense that was not as sharp as usual. Communication issues and multiple defensive lapses hurt the Mavericks as the Owls jumped on them early.
“I thought I played really well in the first half,” Battle said. “My teammates trusted me even when I started out a little off.”
From there, the Owls’ offensive blitz carried over to the other end of the court in what was a disastrous second quarter for Manchester Valley. The Owls held the Mavericks to just two points in the frame and kept their top offensive threat, Carmaya Bowman, scoreless in the first half.
The Owls’ team-first, all-in defensive approach frustrated the Mavericks, as many of them could only stand and watch as their teammates were forced into highly contested shots.
“We had to force them into challenging shots,” coach David Urban said. “The plan was to take away the drives and close the gaps.”
With the Owls coming into the second half up five, Maddy Gassman had a big third quarter. The sophomore matched Battle with 12 points of her own and served as a swiss army knife. Gassman scored inside and outside, driving baseline for tough layups or hitting open midrange shots. She even brought down a couple offensive rebounds, earning extra possessions for the team. Her big contributions help extend the lead to 13 heading into the fourth.
“I was just aggressive today,” Gassman said. “I was just trying to look for my shot and if it wasn’t falling, attack and look for my teammates.”
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With the Owls playing without Julianna Lesher and Abby Kindle, holding on against Manchester Valley would not be an easy task. Junior Autumn Stottlemire didn’t make it easy on the Owls as she lead a late Manchester Valley run that cut the lead to four with three minutes left.
Just when it seemed like the Mavericks had finally fixed their stagnant offense, turnovers led to game-sealing baskets from Battle and Gillian Blubaugh as the Owls held on for the victory.
Urban loved seeing players like Blubaugh, Battle and Gassman step up on the road against a tough team.
“I’m extremely proud because even though we’re two men down, the team is jelling, executing our practice plans and rallying,” he said.
Despite being down those two players, Westminster has belief in its ability to weather the storm and compete as the home stretch of the season approaches.
“No matter who it is, we’re all going to have our cold and bad nights,” Battle said. “But as long as we just play together, we’re going to be able to win together.”
Manchester Valley’s loss combined with Francis Scott Key’s win over Century ensures the Eagles (9-0 Carroll County) at least a share of the conference title. Westminster (12-4 overall, 5-3 Carroll County) and Manchester Valley (12-4, 6-3) are still alive to earn a share of the county title.