Amelia Saunders and Mackenzie DeWees chat with us post-game. (Megan Woodward / Carroll County Times)
Manchester Valley's been in this situation before. The dynamic is just different this time.
Veteran varsity players combined with those who came over from North Carroll support the force that is Man Valley's girls basketball team. They continued to prove themselves on Tuesday in a 65-51 victory over county foe Liberty that earned the outright county championship for the Mavericks.
This is the second straight county title for the undefeated Mavs (17-0, 10-0 county).
"It's amazing," junior point guard Mackenzie DeWees said. "It's a thrill to be with the girls and to have the combination of North Carroll made us a better team. The girls that came along, we filled in holes, we had so many assists tonight and with their help and cooperation, film, a lot of practice, we came together and it clicked. Everybody saw that it clicked tonight and the county championship is another amazing achievement."
DeWees led the Mavericks with 31 points and added 17 rebounds and five assists. Sophomore point guard Josey Klingenberg notched five rebounds, four assists and three steals, while sister Jayce Klingenberg had five assists.
The Mavs wasted no time in establishing themselves — they scored the opening five points and held a 20-13 lead at the end of the first frame. Lions senior center Jess Cronin matched DeWees with 10 points apiece in the quarter for their teams.
Liberty's defense stood up against Man Valley early in the second and the Mavs didn't register points until 4:34 remained. Josey Klingenberg notched her first layup of the night following a steal she knocked out of mid-air. The Mavs were on a 9-0 run and they used that to build a 35-23 halftime lead.
Cronin had 16 of the Lions' 23 points at the break — she scored 17 more to account for a game-high 33 points. Coach Barry Green said this marked the eighth straight game in which Cronin has personified Liberty post basketball.
"We can't be happier, especially with the leadership and we can't be happier with the discipline that she displays," Green said. "There's no travel, nothing cheap, everything is spectacular and her energy coupled with the fact that you have her as a senior and a captain."
A relatively slow third quarter rendered the lowest number of points for both teams in a quarter. Man Valley had 11, six from DeWees, and Liberty scored eight with six from Cronin. The Lions surged with an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter to trim the deficit, but Man Valley never faltered.
Cronin added 12 rebounds and five steals and senior guard Grace Griffin had 14 rebounds, eight assists and three steals for the Lions (7-10, 5-4).
"I think it's really exciting for our program and exciting for our team," Mavs coach Heather DeWees said. "We've worked really hard to get to this point and it's been eight years, it takes a long time so I'm proud of how hard the kids have worked to get to this point. Most of them have been playing basketball since they were four in clinics so it's nice to have this moment and celebrate with them.
"All the kids are aware that's it's been a lot of hard work over the last 12 years working with the rec program so it's really good for our community to celebrate success in girls basketball."
Man Valley guard Amelia Saunders, the team's lone freshman, is relishing in her first county championship experience and said having a good attitude about playing together makes the Mavericks a better team as a whole.
"This is my first county championship so I'm really, really happy," Saunders said. "It just makes me happy to be a part of a team that works hard and pushes me towards that and we all push each other toward the goal of being county champions."