Manchester Valley has become a consistent force in girls' basketball.
The Mavericks have played in Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association regional championships in three of the past four years. The team has also excelled within its county, having won the Carroll County championship the past two seasons.
To Heather DeWees, the only head coach the program has had during the school's nine-year existence, the key has been having players at her disposal who focus primarily on basketball.
"In years prior to this run we've been on, we had great lacrosse and field hockey players who also liked playing basketball," DeWees said. "When you have kids who want to play college basketball it's different and really beneficial. They're more likely to be playing basketball year-round, and that gives us an anchor so that all we have to do is plug in other talented athletes as role players."
This season appears to be no different for the Mavericks, as the team has started 6-0.
A big part of this group's success thus far has been the abundance of point guards the Mavericks have at their disposal. Manchester Valley starts three players that identify as point guards: junior Josey Klingenberg, sophomore Amelia Saunders, and DeWees' daughter, Mackenzie, a senior.
All three point guards have enjoyed fast starts to the season. Mackenzie DeWees has been sensational, averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds, eight steals and four assists per game. Saunders and Klingenberg are both averaging nine points per game. Klingenberg averages six assists a game, while Saunders contributes three steals per game.
It's a setup that's rarely seen at the high school level, but the Mavericks wouldn't have it any other way. Manchester Valley has been doing an excellent job of getting every player on the floor involved, and there haven't been any signs of that stopping any time soon.
"Typically, as a point guard, you cover the other team's point guard, and it's tough," Mackenzie DeWees said. "You use lots of energy just guarding the ball on defense. With three on the court, you can have more speed on the floor and get more fast break points. Starting three point guards aren't what most other schools are doing, but having that IQ on the floor really helps. It's great having three guards; it takes the pressure off all of us."
Of Manchester Valley's 10 girls, eight of them have at least a 3.5 GPA and a few are also members of the National Honor Society. To Heather DeWees, having smart players is truly a benefit. She likes her teams to use multiple looks on offense and defense to keep the opposition out of its comfort zone. For her, not having to repeat a lot of instructions in practice has been a blessing, as it allows the Mavericks to get more done and to add more schemes to their arsenal.
Heather DeWees also likes to give her players freedom on the court, allowing them to make game decisions based off what they're seeing on the floor. It's a trust that not many coaches are able to have with their players.
"Playing with smart players who know the game better allows us to be very adaptive to certain situations," Klingenberg said. "If a team throws out a different defense, we generally don't have to call a timeout. We can usually just figure it out as a group. If we are driving on the baseline, our players know to draft and move to new spots. We're usually smart with the ball and know to ball-fake before passing. In general, I think it helps our game flow better."
The Mavericks like to focus on each contest as it comes, but the group is aware that each game and practice is an opportunity to improve for the postseason, where Manchester Valley is hoping to win its first MPSSAA regional championship.
"We want to be the best we can be once playoffs are here, both as a team and individually," Heather DeWees said. "Our goal is to accentuate our strengths and figure out how we are as a team. My role as their coach is to say each game is a big one, but also to keep telling them this is all practice for the tournament."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Heather DeWees