A year after winning 15 games and allowing just 43.1 points per contest, Kennedy is once again a contender in Montgomery County 4A East because of stellar defensive play. The Cavaliers are giving up just 38.7 points per game and have not allowed a team to break the 50-point barrier all season.

Perhaps the two best performances of the season for Kennedy (11-2, 5-2) were also the team’s only two losses, both against offensive juggernaut Paint Branch. Both of the losses, including Friday’s 49-41 setback, were the most points the Cavaliers have allowed all season. Still, senior guard Daysha Adams considers Friday’s game a pivotal moment in the season for her team.

“Even though we lost to them, it still like, built our confidence. We played hard and we came close,” Adams said. “When we play other teams, we’ve got to have the same intensity as we did against them.”

Kennedy has had no problems with letdowns this season. It opened the campaign with a six-point win over Blair, beat Walter Johnson by 19 (the Wildcats ended the Cavaliers’ season last winter in the Maryland 4A West playoffs) and earned a three-point win over Blake in January to stay in the No. 2 spot in the division.

The catalyst has been Adams. The 5-foot-7 guard, who is averaging 13.7 points per game, is one of the area’s most productive three-point shooters. She has hit 42 this season; she had three against Paint Branch Friday, which pushed her total to 15 three-pointers in the last four games. She is complemented by a balanced supporting cast on offense, which includes fellow senior guard Makeda Wright, who has scored in double figures in seven straight games, and Kiara Arnold, who is averaging 9.7 points per game.

Defense has been the centerpiece, though. The team employs a man-to-man approach, which fits Kennedy’s personnel; the Cavaliers have quick and athletic guards who can defend effectively on the perimeter. That is most notable step the team has taken over the last year, Adams said.

“We have trust in each other,” Adams said, “that’s the difference.”