MIDDLETOWN — Meghan Shipley is a much more confident player this season.
She feels it. Her coaches and teammates on the Middletown girls basketball team can see it during practices and in games. Even the opposing teams know it, too.
“That creates confidence when you know that people are thinking about you and you know they are game-planning against you,” Knights coach Amy Poffenbarger said after Shipley played yet another pivotal role Friday evening in Middletown’s 62-24 rout of visiting Walkersville.
Shipley’s emergence as an offensive threat this season alongside junior Saylor Poffenbarger has made the Class 2A state runner-up last season an even more formidable team.
The junior guard is not as hesitant to take a shot. She’s driving to the basket more assertively and making better passes. She’s now among the county leaders in points (13.2 per game) and assists (2.3) and is strong on the defensive end like she’s always been.
She and Poffenbarger have developed a connection that has been paying big dividends all season for the Knights, who are now 17-1.
Poffenbarger will snag a rebound and look up the floor, and there is Shipley running ahead of the pack. So, Poffenbarger will put a three-quarters-court pass right on the money, and Shipley will finish the sequence with an uncontested layup.
This happened three times in the win over Walkersville (3-15) alone, as the two combined for 44 points. Poffenbarger had a game-high 28 to go along with 10 rebounds, six assists and six steals, while Shipley finished with 16 points, four assists and three steals.
“I know she’s got the arm, and I’ve got the speed,” Shipley said. “I just run the floor. Whenever I see that Saylor gets it, I just take off.”
Poffenbarger has been playing with Shipley for many years and appreciates the chemistry she has developed with her on the court. The two train together regularly during the offseason, taking countless numbers of shots because they both want to get better, not because anyone is forcing or prodding them.
Shipley watches film on her own time because she wants to see how she can get better without someone else having to tell her.
“Just her confidence has improved so much,” Saylor Poffenbarger said. “She knows she can do it. She just needs to believe in herself, and she definitely has this season. That’s helped her become a leader on the court.”
Shipley’s game is much more instinctual now, as thoughts of the past have receded from her mind.
“Last year, I was kind of second-guessing myself with everything that I did,” she said. “This year, I don’t do it as much, and it’s helped a lot.”
While Poffenbarger and Shipley accounted for much of the offense Friday, the Knights’ defense enjoyed one of its finest performances of the season.
Walkersville didn’t score a point in the first quarter and struggled throughout the game to find a good shot. On three separate occasions, the Lions were harassed into violations of the 30-second shot clock.
For awhile, it looked like they might finish with fewer points than any Middletown opponent this season. But they surpassed 20 points late in the fourth quarter.
“That’s how we get started, with our defense,” Saylor Poffenbarger said. “That’s a huge thing mentally for our team. Let’s get it on defense and let that translate into offense.”