By Craig Clary, firstname.lastname@example.org
10:15 PM EST, March 6, 2014
Two nights after the Catonsville defense was the difference in a playoff win over Western, the Comets relied on their offense to cruise to a 49-28 victory over visiting Perry Hall (21-3) in the Class 4A North Region semifinals Thursday.
Catonsville (22-3) generated most of its offense from the perimeter in the opening quarter when the Comets built an 18-5 lead.
Andrea McTaggart started the three-point sharpshooting when she hit the first of her three treys 17 seconds after the opening tap.
Breya Wallace (4 assists) and Lauren McDonald (9 rebounds) added three-pointers and Taylor Barton (7 rebounds) hit a long deuce from just inside the arc in the period.
The hot shooting also gave the Comets a chance to set their press and they responded by forcing eight of Perry Hall’s 27 turnovers .
“They were killing us from the outside,” Perry Hall coach Mandy Fischer said. “They were on fire that first quarter.”
Earlier in the season, the Gators played a 2-3 zone and led at times, before falling to the Comets, 43-39.
“The first time we played them, we rushed everything,” Catonsville coach Mike Mohler said. “We were just chucking stuff up. Their big lineup encourages that and they sat in a zone and would get the ball and they hung in there.”
But, two nights after the Comets shot 27 percent from the field in a 40-37 comeback win over Western, they shot 42 percent, including 40 percent from beyond the arc.
McTaggart added a three in the second quarter and freshman Jennifer Gast came off the bench and scored four points and grabbed three rebounds when they built the lead to 30-12 at halftime.
Gast’s older sister, Renee, who led the Comets with 14 points and six steals, also heated up in the quarter with five points.
The comfortable lead for the Comets got uneasy early in the third period when the Gators cut the deficit to 11, following a pair of treys from sophomore Shawnika McCallum (game-high 15 points) and baskets from Lea Green and Melissa Placek.
Fischer was excited about the play of McCallum.
“She took the team on her shoulders today and I think we needed more than one person taking that charge and it cost us,” Fischer said.
Placek’s bucket cut the lead to 33-22 with 2:12 left in the third quarter before Catonsville junior Lauren McDonald corralled a tough offensive rebound and finished with a 12-foot baseline shot to start a 14-0 Comet run that sealed the win.
“That was real key because we needed a bucket there to just stop the tide from rolling,” Mohler said.
Perry Hall’s Fischer was briefly pleased with her team’s comeback against the Comets 2-3 zone.
“In the second half we bounced back and we started playing more patient, trying to get our bigs involved and trying to get dump it down low as much as we could,” Fischer said. “Some of the shots weren’t falling and they were playing tenacious defense and we were having one shot chances and they would rebound it.”
The Comets switched to a man-to-man and McDonald was assigned to McCallum and she held her scoreless the rest of the game after her basket that started the Comet run.
“Whenever coach Mike puts you on their best player, don’t take it as a punishment, it’s always an honor, so you just want to perform for him because when he puts you there, he expects a lot out of you,” McDonald said.
McTaggart added her final three-pointer during the third quarter and Taylor Barton hit a trey in the fourth quarter to become the fourth Comet to make one from long range.
McDonald attributed the strong outside shooting to the team being more comfortable.
“It’s a great zone, but we had to take the opportunities that they gave us,” she said. “I just think we just played really relaxed today and a game at home is always better than a game away and I think we were really prepared for this game.”
The top-seeded Comets have to go on the road for the regional finals when they play Paint Branch on Saturday, March 8.
Paint Branch defeated Howard, 65-49, in the other regional semifinal.
No matter what happens, they left an impression on a Perry Hall team that suffered two of its three losses to Catonsville.
“The credit goes to Catonsville and to (coach) Mohler,” Fischer said. “They were much more patient this game.”
Renee Gast 14, Andrea McTaggart 9, Taylor Barton 6, Jennifer Gast 6, Lauren McDonald 5, Breya Wallace 5, Maya Wichhart 2, Belle Douglas 2
Perry Hall 28
Shawnika McCallum 15, Lea Green 5, Brittany Gilliam 2, Melissa Placek 2, Stephanie Roche 2, Elizabeth Fitch 2