Mackenzie DeWees said her body told her she wasn’t allowed to give up.
It told her so two years ago when she suffered a partially torn tendon in her ankle and was forced to miss Manchester Valley’s playoff run. Two tears to the labrum of her right shoulder in an AAU game during the summer of 2016 sidelined her until the fall.
The injury bug wouldn’t stay away for long.
DeWees entered a late December matchup against county foe Francis Scott Key needing 35 points to surpass North Carroll graduate Caitlin Bach as the county’s all-time leading scorer. She scored 25 points before suffering a high ankle sprain to her left ankle with less than four minutes remaining.
The injury sidelined her until Jan. 10, a home game against South Carroll.
She went up for a layup late in the first quarter and cheers erupted from the sideline as the ball went through the net. DeWees needed seven points to eclipse Bach, and that basket gave her eight — she finished with 25 points, and added 10 rebounds and five steals.
“When I scored that basket, I remember having tears in my eyes because I never imagined something like that,” DeWees said. “I always had little goals and they were goals I never meant for myself, but for my team. I saw my mom’s face when I scored that basket and started to cry. I just wanted to make her proud and make my family proud.”
The Times Girls Basketball Player of the Year said she will remember that game forever.
The Man Valley senior point guard crafted a fine finale in her last season with the Mavericks before heading off to Quinnipiac University for Division I play. DeWees averaged 25.9 points per game, a county best. She also led Carroll in rebounds (11.7), steals (7.9), field-goal percentage (56.0) andfree-throw percentage (74.5).
“I had such a great support group throughout my career,” DeWees said. “I’ve been face-guarded [on defense] all four years and honestly, I think sometimes it was a mistake of other coaches in the county because I learned how to beat that. It benefited my team and it made me better too because when I get to college, I know I have to beat the girl in front of me.
“Our coaches made great plays to get Josey [Klingenberg] or Annie [Saunders] open. It’s never been about one person at Man Valley; it’s always about a team. We’re all role players and we knew what our roles were and that’s how we excelled.”
The two-time reigning Carroll County Athletic League champions went 10-2 in county play this season, coming up short twice to champion Westminster. The Mavericks got revenge by beating the Owls in the Class 3A West Section 1 final, but lost to eventual state champion Frederick in the regional final.
Through 91 career games over four years as a varsity player, DeWees compiled 2,157 points, 1,097 rebounds, 690 steals, and 385 assists. She already received her workout packet from Quinnipiac in preparation for the next level and leaves in early July for Hamden, Connecticut, to start her transition to the lifestyle of a D-I athlete.
It will be a lot at first, she said, but she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“It’s such a great group of girls and I can’t wait to expand my knowledge of the game there,” DeWees said. “I’m excited for the coaches because I’ve been shaped by coaches at Man Valley since I was a little girl running around the gym in second grade. It’s going to be tough to leave.”
It will mark the first year she won’t be coached by her mother, Heather DeWees, but Mackenzie said everything is owed to her mother for allowing her to accomplish her lifelong goal to play D-I basketball.
“As a player, she is the nicest kid, very sportsmanlike, and she is a role model for every girl who wants to play basketball,” Heather DeWees said after MV’s season-ending loss to Frederick. “She doesn’t lower herself and turn into somebody else and I’m proud of her for that. I can’t say I could do that with what she goes through. She’s never, ever been dirty as a player but she just plays hard.