The Westlake girls’ basketball team is in a familiar position, but other than being a favorite to defend its Maryland 3A South region title, not much about the Wolverines remains the same.
Westlake lost its top three scorers from last year’s state semifinalist — including 23.4-point-per-game scorer and Charles County Player of the Year TJ Malone — and takes an entirely different identity into this year’s region tournament, which begins for them Monday night against Crossland.
No one player will demand an opponent’s attention anymore, but collectively, the Wolverines will still be a tough out.
“We have a deeper team than last year, but sometimes being deep and not having that senior core and that 20-point scorer like TJ makes a difference,” Coach Ardell Jackson said. “Everybody has to step up and play their role to give us a more balanced attack.”
Junior guard Shenea Butler — a transfer from Surrattsville — leads the Wolverines with a nearly 16-point-per-game average, but the lack of a consistent inside scoring presence has caused a significant change in the team’s offensive style.
Last year Westlake would slow things down and pound the ball inside on the majority of its possessions, but now it relies on sharing the ball in transition and playing a more open style.
Behind Butler — who hopes to recover from a sprained ankle in time to play against Crossland — forward Breanna Gleaton and guards Alexus Willey and Damira Banks give Westlake a number of players who can score.
“If we execute well,” Jackson said, “we give ourselves a shot.”
Westlake takes a 16-6 record into the postseason, but five of the six losses came against No. 4 North Point and No. 8 Calvert, and the Wolverines went 7-0 against 3A South opponents during the regular season.
An overtime win over second-seed Chopticon in the regular-season finale gave Westlake a feel for a playoff environment, and while the Braves and top-seeded Friendly stand in the way, the Wolverines have a realistic shot at their first repeat region title since 2004-2005.
“The 3A [classification] is wide open, and it’ll be interesting to see who comes out of the South,” Jackson said. “It’s not an easy road, but I have faith in the girls we have and they’re ready to go.”