Catonsville High’s girls basketball team returns four starters from the 2017 state championship team, but that doesn’t mean coach Mike Mohler will let his team take it easy during pre-season practices.
He halted one practice and reminded his girls about the championship banner on the wall.
“I said, ‘You see that banner that’s hanging up there, it says 2017, it doesn’t say 2018,’ ” Mohler recalled.
The Comets lost just three seniors from last year’s 26-2 squad that defeated Walt Whitman, 49-46, in the Class 4A state title game.
One of them was 6-foot-2 inch starter Jen Gast.
The four-year varsity player, now playing at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Comets.
“Jen is going to be very difficult to replace,” Mohler said. “We certainly will miss Jen. She could shoot it, rebound, defend and block shots.”
The Comets will also miss role players Amber Lally and Aakilah Barrett.
Lally supplied defensive intensity and was fundamentally sound and Barrett was a perimeter threat off the bench.
This year’s veterans include some serious threats all over the court.
Senior Jasmine Dickey averaged 23.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last season when she was named to the All-Metro team for the second straight year.
The 5-foot-10 inch guard/forward has already committed to play college basketball at Division I Delaware University.
In the championship game against Whitman, she scored a game-high 30 points and made 18 of 24 free throws.
She was selected Ms. Basketball, named for the best public school player in the state.
Dickey scored her 1,000th career point in December of 2016 and her 1,500th point in the state championship game.
“We have the luxury of four players back and the luxury of arguably one of the top five players [Dickey] in the state,” Mohler said.
Joining four-year varsity starter Dickey is four-year varsity starter Jameila Barrett.
Barrett, who will play college basketball at Division I Norfolk State, averaged 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds last season.
The senior also had over 100 steals and was named to the state’s All-Academic team with a 4.85 weighted grade point average
Stashia Daniels, a 6-2 forward, was a key shot blocker and inside scorer last year and she is back as the third returning senior starter.
Junior point guard Gabby Douglas, who made clutch free throws and perimeter shots during the Comets playoff run, is the fourth returning starter.
Seniors Cerenity Chambers, Alicia Buck, Naomi Alford, junior Savannah Beaver and sophomores Maddie McLean and Kolby Weedon also return from last year’s state champions.
Chambers worked hard in summer ball and McLean’s size (6-2) will be needed to replace the loss of Gast.
“She (McLean) is going to play significant minutes and hopefully gives us an inside presence,” Mohler said.
Mohler also welcomed a trio of transfers.
Senior Bailie Grace (5-4) transferred from Seton Keough, junior Aysia Ferguson (5-5) came from Indian Creek and sophomore Sophi Wrisk (5-6) arrived from Mount de Sales.
Ferguson can play point guard, shooting guard and small forward.
“She’s got quickness, toughness and she can shoot it,” Mohler said.
Mohler plans for Wrisk to help underneath.
“She’s very athletic,” Mohler said. “We are hoping she helps us get the ball off the boards.”
Junior Alex Green moved up from JV to join the varsity.
Catonsville is scheduled to open the season at New Town on Dec. 9.
New Town and Seton Keough gave the Comets their only losses last season.
They will also play McDonogh, Mount de Sales, Roland Park and Bishop McNamara early in the season.
“We didn’t exactly duck anybody,” said Mohler, who enters his 23rd season at Catonsville with 479 career victories.