Seasons can be successful by measures beyond wins and losses.
But still—it’s easy to feel good about a playoff victory.
The Indian Creek girls basketball team punctuated its season with just such a win on February 11, defeating visiting Friends School 50-38 in the quarterfinal round of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference playoffs.
Megan Bunker’s game-high 25 points as well as 13 by Peyton Frisby and nine steals by point guard Janeiyah Cajudoy allowed the Eagles (11-9) to overcome an early deficit and put a winning exclamation point on their season.
The victory was a culmination for a young Indian Creek team that navigated inexperience and injuries throughout the season and dressed only nine players for the playoffs. The Eagles graduated a deep and experienced group of seniors from last year’s conference finalist team.
“I’m proud of them. They just keep coming back through adversity,” said head coach Ciaran Lesikar. “We had our goal, it was, every game we wanted to get better. And after every game we’d say, ‘Did we get better?’ And every game we could say yes.”
The playoff matchup with Friends played out as a fitting microcosm of the season, as Indian Creek fell into an early 8-1 hole, played erratically throughout the first quarter and saw the visiting Quakers high-fiving and excitedly seeking an upset.
But Indian Creek responded. Cajudoy and Bunker, both juniors, worked tirelessly on defense to disrupt passing lanes and aggravate ball handlers. Haley Selmer and Ania Crawford showed effective fundamentals with strong rebounding and defense, and Indian Creek turned defense to fast-break offense. A steal by Bunker and pass to Cajudoy tied the game at 10-10, and a steal by Cajudoy and bucket by Crawford gave Indian Creek its first lead at 12-10 early in the second quarter.
Cajudoy said the team didn’t lose confidence after a subpar start.
“What changed us from being down to getting on that run was our focus and our confidence,” she said. Asked how she was able to disrupt Friends’s offense for so many steals, Cajudoy gave an answer that is music to a basketball coach’s ears: “Moving my feet.”
After leading 21-15 at halftime, Frisby scored nine of her 13 points in the third quarter, when Indian Creek was able to stretch into a double-digit lead.
Bunker, always a threat to score and one of the conference’s and county’s top scorers as a junior this season, took on the role of closer, scoring 10 points in the final frame to keep Friends at bay. Selmer came up with two big offensive rebounds and layups in the fourth quarter to thwart any Quaker momentum. Selmer finished with six points, and the Eagles kept the Quakers at least three possessions away from threatening the outcome.
Several of the Eagles played all 32 minutes, including Bunker and Cajudoy, who were sprinting end-to-end virtually the entire game on fast breaks and in transition defense. Bunker said the team prides itself on its conditioning.
“It’s definitely an important part of our game,” Bunker said. “No seniors, we’ve got a young team, so we’ve got to be able to step up and play that full game. This year more than any other year the hard work behind the scenes is really what’s contributing to these kinds of wins and being able to pull back when we’re behind. It’s coming in at 7 a.m. and shooting before school or those early practices when we don’t get gym time after school. That’s what’s been building us all season. We always have that mentality: We’re going to work when the other teams aren’t working so that when it’s the last minute of the game we’re still going to be running. We’re ready for overtime, we’re not going to be dead by the first half.”
Lesikar noted the competitiveness of Bunker and Cajudoy, who were relentless on both ends of the court.
“Janeiyah and Megan, just huge. Huge,” Lesikar said. “They’re warriors.”
Indian Creek fell in the conference semifinals to Bryn Mawr on February 13, but Lesikar said the season was a resounding success in terms of the players’ growth. The Eagles were 3-6 at the end of 2019, but they kept getting better with each game, and ultimately they were able to finish over .500 and notch a playoff win.
“I think for this team, we lost a lot of games early because we didn’t have a lot of experience. We were so young,” said Lesikar. “They’ve done a phenomenal job with adversity, all things considered. We don’t have a lot of depth. We changed up our offense and defense in the middle of the year, worked on our plays over and over until we learned them. Now, I have a long list of plays on offense and defense, and they’re able to switch back and forth between all of them, which really helps us. They did a tremendous job.”
Cajudoy said the relentlessness she played with was representative of the team’s commitment to each other.
“I’m really proud of how we’re like a family, and everybody just brings each other up,” Cajudoy said. “We have great energy.”