On a night when Catonsville’s offense was misfiring, Catonsville junior Renee Gast knew how to remedy the situation at halftime of the Class 4A North Region quarterfinal against visiting Western (10-8).
The Comets needed to win with defense, and that’s exactly what they did as they rallied from a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter and five-point deficit with 4:28 left in the fourth to pull out a pulsating 40-37 victory.
“We turned to each other at halftime and said, ‘This is a team game and the only way we are going to win it is through defense,’ ” Gast said. “The offense will come as long as we play solid defense.”
Gast (13 points), who was plagued by foul trouble, put the Comets (21-3) ahead for good after Breya Wallace threaded a bounce pass across the lane and she converted a layup for a 38-37 lead with 1:42 left.
“Breya saw an opening and we work really well together because I’ve been playing with her since seventh grade,” Gast said. “She saw it and I saw it, and it was just there.”
It wasn’t even Gast’s biggest play.
With 53 seconds remaining, she dove on the floor and secured a jump ball because the Comets had the possession arrow.
“I just want to win,” Gast said. “I know we can get to states this year and we can’t have any little mess-up to end our season, so we’ll do anything we can do.”
Western had built its cushion on a strong first quarter from Jaz Spruill (10 points) and India Myles (13 points) who had six points each while the Doves built a 14-7 lead after one quarter.
That number one (Spruill) did a great job,” Catonsville coach MIke Mohler said.
Catonsville’s defense kept them close in the second quarter when they forced nine of Western’s 31 turnovers and held them without a field goal, but they still trailed 20-15.
The Doves appeared ready to pull away when they went on a 9-2 run in the third quarter, spearheaded by strong play from Kyaja Williams (7 points, eight rebounds, four steals) and hustling defense from Maiya Gibson.
They built a 29-17 lead before the Comets answered with a pair of free throws by Taylor Barton (11 points, 13 rebounds) and layin from Gast to pull within 29-21 with 39 seconds left in the quarter.
Williams pushed the Doves lead back to 10, but Gast seized the momentum on a three-pointer with five seconds left and they only trailed 31-24.
In the fourth quarter, Catonsville held the Doves to just one field goal while they chipped away at the lead.
Catonsville’s Breya Wallace (8 points) started the scoring 10 seconds into the quarter after a steal.
Layups by Barton and Gast pulled the Comets within one, 31-30.
When Lauren McDonald fed freshman Jennifer Gast, Renee’s younger sister, for a short jumper, the Comets finally had their first lead, 32-31, since early in the game.
Williams canned a free throw to tie it and Donye Moses added two free throws before Myles’ conventional three-point play put the Doves in front 37-32 with 4:28 remaining.
McDonald followed with a tough offensive rebound and putback that Catonsville assistant coach Rich Hunt said “was the best rebound I’ve ever seen.”
Solo free throws by Jennifer Gast and Renee Gast pulled the Comets within one, 37-36, with 2:01 remaining.
That set up Renee Gast’s go-head layup and the lead for good.
But the final 1:42 got so intense that Catonsville girls lacrosse coach Becky Clipp, a fan at the game, thought she might go into labor early, and she’s not due for five weeks.
Both teams had multiple defensive stops.
After a Comet turnover, Western had the ball with 18 seconds left trailing by one, but pressure by Renee Gast and McDonald forced a pass away from the basket and defense by Wallace created a traveling violation with four seconds left.
Wallace sunk two free throws with one second left for the final score.
“The girls played hard,” Western coach Dafne Lee-Blakney said. “They left it all on the court. It was a team effort, but you win together and you lose together.”
Although he has seen only a couple of comebacks like that this season, Mohler has witnessed it from the girls in other sports.
“Something about these kids, from soccer and lacrosse, they know how to win,” said the Comet coach.
“By far, it the most exciting win,” Renee Gast said.. “I’m so happy.”
Renee Gast 13, Taylor Barton 11, Breya Wallace 8, Andrea McTaggart 3, Jennifer Gast 3, Lauren McDonald 2
India Myles 13, Jaz Spruill 10, Kyaja Williams 7, Maiya Gibson 4, Donye Moses 3