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Catonsville girls basketball clinches Baltimore County title game berth with win over Franklin

By Craig Clary, cclary@baltsun.com

9:17 PM EST, February 20, 2014

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History was behind them when Catonsville hosted Franklin in the regular-season finale Thursday evening, but a Baltimore County title game berth was the dangling carrot, and the Comets (20-2) delivered with a 49-28 victory.

The win clinched Division II for the Comets, who were perfect in divisional play (11-0), while the Indians finished 9-2.

Catonsville will play Division I champion Milford Mill in the county championship game on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 5 p.m. at Towson University’s SECU Arena.

The Millers handed the Comets one of their two losses this season, when they defeated them, 58-35, on Jan. 15.

The only other loss for Catonsville came against Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference squad Seton Keough, 35-30.

Since the loss to Milford, the Comets have won 11 in a row.

They are also in pursuit of their fifth Baltimore County title, having won in 2001, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The last time they played in the game was 2012 when they lost in double overtime to Milford Mill.

They have already enjoyed some history-making moments this season.

When the Comets defeated Archbishop Spalding, 45-37, on Jan. 27, it was coach Mike Mohler’s 400th career victory as a prep coach, including 20 years at Catonsville.

Senior Taylor Barton also reached two milestones this season, when she surpassed 600 rebounds and 1,000 points.

She went over the grand milestone in the Comets’ 66-44 win over Woodlawn on Wednesday night.

Starters Renee Gast, Lauren McDonald and Andrea McTaggart and reserves Jenn Nonn, Lauren Vogelpohl and Lila Nazarian are making some winning history of their own.

In the fall, the six girls played on the Comet soccer team that lost in the state championship game and posted a 17-2 record, the best in Comet girls soccer history.

They are now a combined 37-4 in the fall and winter sports combined.

Gast proved she didn’t leave her aggressiveness on the soccer pitch during the opening period against Franklin.

She hauled in six rebounds, four offensive, and score five points to spark the Comets to a 17-7 lead at the break.

“Coach told us tonight we needed to hit the boards and he stressed that in the locker room. We knew down low would be important tonight,” said Gast, who finished with game highs in points (11) and rebounds (10).

“Renee has got a heart as big as the ocean,” Mohler said. “One thing about Renee is she never stops. She is the energizer bunny out there.”

Franklin’s interior size was what the Comets feared the most because they boasted three 6-foot-2 players in senior Blaire Ross (9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocked shots), junior Whisper Fisher (4 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks) and sophomore Cara Murphy, who contributed four points and a blocked shot in the fourth quarter.

But Fisher injured her leg in the fist 30 seconds of the game and the Comets capitalized by taking a 6-0 lead with all the points coming in the paint.

Barton (6 rebounds) scored the first basket and McDonald (7 points, 5 rebounds) scored the next two field goals.

Fisher returned with 3:52 left in the period, but the Comets had stretched the lead to eight points and the Indians (16-5) never got any closer.

Catonsville outrebounded the Indians 42-25 and forced 31 turnovers.

The Comets only shot 32 percent from the field (21-for-66), but they held the Indians to just 27 percent (11-for-41) and scoreless from beyond the three-point arc (0-for-14).

“Offensively, we just weren’t there,” Franklin coach Denikwa James said.

Gast was the only Comet who scored in double figures, but they also got eight points from her younger sister, Jennifer Gast, six points from McTaggart and four each from Barton, Breya Wallace and Maja Wichhart.

Wallace led the team with five steals, but Barton and Renee Gast had four each and McTaggart and McDonald had three each as the Comets finished with 21 steals.

Gast admitted her intensity was up because of Franklin’s lofty record.

“I was expecting a harder game tonight,” she said. “I wished it would have been a harder game because I think the good competition would help us against Milford on Tuesday.”

Franklin coach James admitted her squad’s 52-47 victory over Chesapeake on Wednesday took its toll.

“It was a very tough win and they were very aggressive, a very good team so I think we were a little tired mentally,” she said. “You can’t be tired mentally, because they (Catonsville) definitely pressed fullcourt.”

Mohler hopes the Comets can match the intensity and quickness of Milford Mill (17-1).

“One of our goals was to get to the county championship,” Mohler said. “Our next goal is to try and win it and then try and win the region.”