Whitman Coach Pete Kenah became worried during practices earlier this week because he noticed freshman guard Abby Meyers was being unusually quiet. She wasn’t talking to anybody, and so when Kenah asked her what was wrong, he was surprised by the answer from the soft-spoken Meyers. “I’m just focused,” she told him.
“I think we all had a feeling she was going to come big tonight,” Kenah said.
Meyers has quickly built a reputation of being a special young talent this winter, and her ability was on full display Friday night against Blair. The lanky guard came off the bench to score 15 points, and the Vikings used suffocating defense to beat the Blazers, 65-38, in a Montgomery County 4A South showdown in Silver Spring. With the win, Whitman (10-2, 5-0) takes over sole possession of first place in the division.
“[Kenah] gives me chances with all these plays. He calls the right plays for me,” Meyers said.
Meyers’s three-pointer at the end of the first quarter helped key a 14-3 run to close the first eight minutes, and the Vikings withstood a 10-4 run by Blair (7-2, 4-1) at the end of the second quarter to take a 34-27 lead into halftime. What ensued was stunning, as the Blazers scored just one field goal in the third quarter and managed only 11 total points in the second half against the Vikings’ swarming man-to-man defense.
“Their defense was really good, I can’t even lie about that one,” said Blair forward Debbie Olawuyi, who led the Blazers with 12 points. “I noticed we fell off when it came to the second half. They were pressuring us a lot.”
Supplementing the defensive effort was a balanced offensive showing, which included 11 points from guard Marie Hatch and nine from Avery Witt. But the 5-foot-9 Meyers stole the show offensively in the second half, using her long arms to penetrate into the lane and pull up and shoot over Blair defenders. Meyers, who also led the team with 12 points in a win over Richard Montgomery on Wednesday, scored eight of her 15 in the second half. She called it her best high school performance to date.
“I came out strong,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without the team. It was all a team effort.”
After the Whitman boys’ basketball team won the Maryland 4A title in 2006, Kenah immediately adopted that team’s sagging man-to-man defense, called a “gap defense,” and it has paid dividends. Kenah, who led a small and scrappy team to the 4A state semifinals last winter, has designed his defensive scheme to pressure the ball and take advantage of the shot clock. Parents have joked with Kenah about running just one possession of zone defense this winter, but he won’t budge, especially not after Friday night’s performance.
“It was really the girls, locking it in on defense,” Kenah said. “It’s what we do.”