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Girls’ basketball: Whitman’s methodical offense sinks Walter Johnson

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The scoreboard at Walter Johnson malfunctioned late in the first quarter of Friday night’s girls’ basketball game between the Wildcats and visiting Whitman — and after a 10-minute delay, there was a real concern among the crowd that the shot clock wouldn’t work for the rest of the night. Eventually, officials at the school repaired the clock — and Whitman didn’t miss a beat.

The Vikings used a methodical, slow-pace half-court offense early, and milked the clock late to hold off Walter Johnson, 44-42, in a Montgomery County 4A South game in Bethesda.

The game was far from an offensive masterpiece — the two teams combined for just 31 points in the first half — but Whitman (5-1, 1-0) received big plays when it needed them down the stretch. Senior Dani Okon scored 13 points, including a personal 7-0 run early in the fourth quarter that gave her team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Okon was the only Vikings player to score in double figures.

“We had the patience to come back and win,” Okon said. “It was definitely our defense that kept us in the game. Our shots weren’t really falling. In the end we were able to pick it up.”

With Walter Johnson (5-2, 0-1) leading 24-22 early in the fourth quarter, Okon cut to the basket late in the shot clock and earned a three-point play. She scooped in another layup a few minutes later and had another chance at a three-point play after being fouled on a made layup on the ensuing possession. She missed the free throw, but Whitman came down with an offensive rebound and patiently swung the ball around the perimeter until it had the shot it wanted — a three-pointer from Maddie Cannon that made it 32-26 with just under five minutes remaining.

“There’s no dunks in girls’ basketball, so and-ones and three-pointers give you a little more energy,” Whitman Coach Peter Kenah said.

Walter Johnson made several late runs — and whittled the lead to 42-39 with about 30 seconds left after Marisa Gilman hit a runner in the lane. But Whitman made seven of 10 free throws in the final three minutes, as Walter Johnson intentionally fouled after the Vikings played keep away with the 30-second shot clock on several possessions. The Wildcats got 13 points from guard Melanie Ackerman, but 6-foot-2 post Kristen Larrick, who entered the night averaging 15.3 points per game, finished with just five points. Walter Johnson trailed 10-2 at the end of the first quarter.

“To be up 10-2, then score 15 the whole first half, there was a little bit of tension in the locker room,” Kenah said. “[Walter Johnson’s] zone is so aggressive, it’s really hard to get a quick hitter off of it. . . . it seemed like our game was more like chess. We were trying to move the defense around.”

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