Shanniah Wright is getting used to having a big role at a young age.
The 6-fooot-2 Poly Prep freshman forward played on the varsity team as an eighth grader last year, and admittedly struggled with being a focal point for the Blue Devils. Wright is feeling much more comfortable just a year later — and it shows.
She scored seven of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and dominated the glass to help lead the Poly Prep girls’ basketball team to an important 44–38 win over host Horace Mann on Oasis Night last Friday.
“Last year the pressure really got to me,” Wright said. “This year, you learn and grow as a player. I realized what my role is. If coach needs me to take over a game, I have to take over the game.”
Horace Mann, one of the top teams in the Ivy League, tied the score at 36–36 with 3:57 to go in the game on a jumper by star freshman guard Jordan Nixon. Poly proceeded to close out the contest with a 8–2 run that started with a Wright put back and then a pretty give-and-go layup by Maggie White off a feed from Ryan Ward. The Blue Devils went up 40–36 with 1:43 remaining and never looked back.
“Not a lot of teams have big girls like that so we have to take advantage of her,” junior captain Lily Warhaftia said of Wright.
Poly Prep coach Mike Junsch called Wright the only player he wouldn’t want to see on Poly’s team if he were the opposing coach. It got harder for Horace Mann (5–2, 2–2) to guard Wright after forward Caroline Levy fouled out in the third quarter.
“Shanniah can be as good as she wants to be,” Junsch said.
The Blue Devils (4–0, 3–0) had no such troubles with controlling Nixon. Ovie Kabba and Ward took turns face guarding her and Poly threw a double team at her late in the game. Even when she beat defenders she was forced into the outstretched arms of Wright and White.
Warhaftia tallied 14 points for Poly. Nixon scored 15 points and Jennifer Reiss added 14 points for Horace Mann.
“She is a fantastic player,” Wright said of Nixon. “We knew we had to take her out of the game.”
There were some concern of rust coming into the contest since Poly had last played on Dec. 12 because of the Christmas break. Horace Mann led 31–29 after the third quarter, but Poly’s defense and Wright’s dominance allowed Poly to pick up a win that shows it can compete with Horace Mann and Dalton for an Ivy League crown.
“I think this win will tell us that we can beat better teams like this,” said Warhaftia. “I think its showed us all that we are pretty good team.”
Poly Prep 57, Horace Mann 17: Najee Taylor led the Poly Prep boy’s basketball team with eight points. David Dixon had six points and J.D. Levine chipped in four. Robert Gulub paced Horace Mann with 10 points.