Westlake guard Shanea Butler and Calvert center Daijha Thomas are used to playing against and with each other. The standout Southern Maryland Athletic Conference seniors are both four-year varsity players and became friends after meeting last April on the Xpress United AAU squad. But last Wednesday’s meeting at Calvert marked one of the final times in their careers that they will wear opposing jerseys.
The pair signed to Towson on the same day in November after coordinating their visit to the school together.
“It was the first school I visited and I just wanted to sign right on the spot. I liked the coaches, the campus, and it just feels like home,” Thomas said. “Going with Shanea makes it twice as better, ‘cause I love that girl.”
Butler had offers from UMBC and LaSalle and Thomas was considering Radford and High Point.
“I don’t really think we influenced each other that much on our choice,” Butler said. “We just both enjoyed it.”
The Wolverines were able to take advantage of early foul trouble for then No. 20 Calvert (10-3) and win, 62-38, to stay undefeated in the conference. It was the first time No. 19 Westlake (9-2) had beaten the defending 2A state champions since 2010.
Westlake held off Chopticon two days earlier for a 53-51 win decided in the final minute by free throws from Butler, who went six for six from the line that game.
“In the Chopticon game, we actually clicked and started playing together as a team,” Bulter said. “We were so excited and pumped up about that it carried over to the Calvert game.”
Endia Bulter and Kayla Gross got in foul trouble early for the Cavaliers and freshman and sophomore guards were forced to step in. Thomas tried to help in transition a few times but at 6-foot-3, she was out of her element and being double and triple-teamed by the basket.
“I got to the basket plenty of times, but my shots weren’t falling and they were putting pressure on us,” Thomas said. “I do not like losing but I couldn’t let that stop me from trying or trying to fight.”
The Wolverines defense held Thomas to a season-low nine points, but when she was able to score, Butler had to stifle her cheers for her former and future teammate.
“It was kind of awkward when she scored, ‘cause I’m so used to being on her team I wanted to cheer her on,” Butler said.
Calvert rebounded two days later with a 56-31 win against visiting Chopticon (6-3).
“It was a weird circle,” Thomas said of beating the Braves by double digits after losing to a Wolverines squad that narrowly held them off. “It just shows that anything can happen any day.”
The game had two early first-quarter interruptions. Chopticon guard Tyaira Priest hit her 1,000th career point on a three-pointer in the Braves’ first drive of the game. The Braves stopped and celebrated before rejoining the game.
About three minutes later, a free throw from Thomas marked her 1,000th career point, which warranted a game break for a performance of the Nae Nae from the home team.
At 4-foot-11, Priest is usually the shortest member on any SMAC court, but she is leading the conference with 18.8 points per game.
“My team out there, they help me get where I want to go and to do better,” Priest said. “At the beginning of the season I was making most of my points on free throws, but as the season came along I had more layups and three-pointers. It rotates.”
Priest’s basketball skills and IQ “are unbelievable” despite her small stature, Coach Joe Cook said at the beginning of the season. Her team nickname is “Press Breaker,” for her ability to single-handedly beat a press.
Six-foot-4 center Ericka “Tree” Boyden is the second-leading scorer for the Braves, but she went down early in the Calvert game with a knee injury that began in a win against Thomas Stone earlier in the week.