Season recap: Essence Townsend
Opponents of Paterson (N.J.) Catholic's girls basketball team adopted an interesting strategy this season to deal with Maryland center recruit Essence Townsend.
“They went right at her,” Paterson Catholic coach Dave Andre said. “They tried to get her in quick foul trouble, but she was prepared because other teams tried it as well. She held her own. ... They decided it’s easier just to go right at a shotblocker. She managed to block a ton of shots and stay out of foul trouble. [Then teams would do some] other thing in the second half after realizing that getting inside was going to be a big challenge.”
Townsend, 6 feet 6, averaged 10 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks per game. The Cougars finished the year 29-3, winning the New Jersey non-public B championship.
Paterson Catholic earned the No. 6-seed in the state Tournament of Champions. In the quarterfinals against third-seeded Bloomfield Tech, Townsend just missed a triple-double, scoring eight points, grabbing 14 rebounds and setting a TOC record with 10 blocked shots.
Townsend’s high school career ended in the TOC semifinals. St. John Vianney, the eventual champions, employed the ‘attack Townsend’ strategy to near perfection, limiting the future Terp to just eight minutes due to foul trouble.
While Townsend’s season ended on a rough note, Andre said her senior campaign will be remembered for dominant defensive performances and an improved offensive game.
“I guess the best way to describe it is, she’s definitely transformed [her game],” Andre said. “Her overall aggressiveness [improved dramatically]. Once she’s aggressive from the start, it’s probably going to continue the whole game, and that was a big adjustment for her -- realizing it was up to her to be aggressive and get involved. Once she decided to make things happen on her own, the snowball started to roll.”
Andre acknowledges that Townsend will have to get stronger before making a contribution in College Park. Improving her strength and conditioning will definitely be on the agenda for the summer. Andre, who coached Townsend for three years at Paterson Catholic, said he’s excited to watch her take the next steps in her development.
“It’s really exciting for us and her,” Andre said. “Maryland’s probably the hottest team in the country other than UConn. ... So she’s very excited. It’s unfortunate that obviously Kristi [Toliver] and Marissa [Coleman] are going to graduate. But there will be a ton of great players with her. ... [Essence] is excited following the results [of the NCAA tournament]. She’ll text me with the results during the games, so she’s very excited.”