Gaithersburg High School girls basketball coach Adrian McDaniel has posted different slogans or phrases on his team’s warm-up jerseys or on the bulletin board in the team’s locker room to motivate his players in recent years.
The slogan this year heading into the Class 4A West Region playoffs could be, ‘Janessa Fauntroy is the glue that holds us together.’
Granted it’s probably too long to place on the back of a shirt, but Fauntroy’s play on both ends of the court this winter is the main reason the Trojans are in contention for a fourth straight region title despite significant graduation losses and an injury-plagued season had by senior point guard Deja Rollins, the team’s projected leader who has been in and out of the lineup due to an early-season knee injury.
“When Deja hurt her knee, she had to hold everything together,” McDaniel said. “Deja is our point guard; she runs the whole show. Janessa took up a big leadership role. We have good team chemistry. They’re peaking at the right time.”
The Trojans, the two-time defending state champions, earned the top seed in the Class 4A West Region playoffs. They started 3-4, but went on an 11-game winning streak, including a 49-47 victory against Walt Whitman.
“At first, when Deja got injured, we were all kind of nervous,” Fauntroy said. “I had to step up completely and encourage the girls to become very comfortable in the new positions they were at. I told them, ‘It was OK and we can get through it.’ I feel like on this team, my role is being a leader.”
That includes by example with her all-out hustle, stingy defense, offensive and defensive rebounding and scoring prowess. She is averaging a team-high 11.6 points per game and 12 rebounds per contest.
“Janessa is a great player,” said Walter Johnson coach Lindsey Zegowitz, who was an accomplished post player during her tenure at Damascus. “As a coach going into the game, you definitely have to prepare for her. We watched her on film and I talked to all our post players that she is Gaithersburg’s go-to player.
“She gets a lot of touches on the ball. She’s tough; she’s hard to play. She works hard offensively and defensively.”
Although not completely comfortable with being the focus of an offense, Fauntroy scored 17 points in a 50-47 win against Thomas S. Wootton on Dec. 17, 25 points in a 46-44 victory against Quince Orchard on Jan. 30 and 15 points in wins against Paint Branch and Whitman.
“I’m a defensive player. I’m not always the best offensive player,” she said. “I know when I need to score, I can score, but I’m working ... to become a better offensive player. I know I can’t let my teammates down. I know even just rebounding and playing good defense on my girl, I know that’s still going to help my team.”