Thirty years after the last Catonsville High girls basketball team played in the state championship game, the Comets are going back.
After defeating North Point, 64-40, in the Class 4A state semifinals at Towson University’s SECU Arena on Thursday, Catonsville (25-2) advances to play Walt Whitman in the finals at the same venue on Saturday, March 11 at 3 p.m.
Catonsville, making its eighth trip to the state tournament, has never won a girls basketball state title.
Junior Jamelia Barrett (26 points), sophomore Gabby Douglas (18) and junior Jasmine Dickey (14) led the scoring for the Comets.
Necole Hope (13 points) and Aliyah Bullock (12) led North Point (23-4).
Barrett was 10 of 15 from the field and 6 of 6 from the foul line.
Barrett scored most of her points on layups off fast-breaks.
“The game plan every night is really to push the ball, make good passes and get it up the court and I think Gabby did a really good job of pushing it, so that was really good and I think my teammates were really good at facilitating tonight,” Barrett said.
The Comets outscored the Eagles 34-15 in the second half when Barrett scored 18 points.
“We said at halftime, ‘guys don’t stop running. We can get the easy buckets. We’ve just got to be smart with it,’” Catonsville coach Mike Mohler said.
Douglas scored 11 points in the second half, including making the Comets’ only two three-pointers of the game.
Her first three-pointer came just before the third-quarter buzzer and she admitted it was surprising.
“I knew we didn’t have a lot of time and I carried the ball a little bit and it didn’t get called, so I just kind of threw it up there, but I got lucky,” said Douglas, who was 5 of 6 from the field and 6 of 6 from the foul line.
That buzzer-beating heave gave the Comets a 49-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“That was a huge momentum boost,” Mohler said.
The Comets got a more subtle momentum boost in the first quarter, after Dickey and Jen Gast both were on the bench with two fouls and reserves Amber Lally and Maddie McLean came in and gave quality minutes.
Dickey departed with 5:33 left in the second quarter and Gast was benched with 3:59 remaining and the Comets leading, 5-4.
“We are pretty resilient. I had my two leading scorers on the bench with two fouls in the first quarter and we had a long way to go to try and get out of it,” Mohler said. “I thought the girls that came in off of the bench actually get most of the credit for hanging us in there and keeping us close until we could get them back in and then they played the rest of the first half without getting their third foul.”
The Comets also switched from a man-to-man to a 2-1-2 zone after Dickey and Gast left.
“At that point, we had to buy time and the only way were going to do it was be in the zone,” Mohler said.
Hope’s three-pointer with one second left in the first quarter gave the Eagles a 12-8 lead at the break.
Dickey, who averages 23.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, and Gast returned 20 seconds into the second quarter.
After Stashia Daniels canned a free throw, Dickey scored on a putback and the Comets led 12-11.
A basket by Camille Robinson and two buckets from Bullock keyed a 6-2 run for the Eagles and they led, 18-13, with 5:42 left in the half.
Catonsville answered with eight straight points in 85 seconds and took a 21-18 lead.
Gast’s layup started the scoring and Dickey’s chippie made it 18-17.
Two free throws by Dickey put the Comets ahead, 19-18, and Daniels’ blocked a shot that started a breakaway that ended with Dickey feeding Barrett on a long bounce pass for a 21-18 lead with 4:18 left in the half.
Synia Johnson made a basket with 4:03 left and the lead was one, 21-20, but the Comets scored nine of the next 10 points.
Dickey had four points and Douglas made a conventional three-point play with 1:36 left in the half and the Comets led, 30-21.
Baskets by North Point’s Bullock and Hope cut the deficit to 30-25 at intermission.
In the third quarter, Hope’s layup with 4:57 left cut the deficit to three, 34-31, but Dickey answered with a layup, followed by a block, rebound and assist to Barrett for a fast-break layup and the lead was up to 38-31.
Catonsville outscored North Point 26-6 the rest of the way and shot 46.9 percent overall (23-for-49) from the field.
North Point shot 25.4 percent (16-for 63).
“We knew they were going to be tough so hats off to them, they came out and they played ball and they took care of business,” North Point coach Michael Serpone said. “There is nothing you can do when there is a lid on the rim and today was one of those days.”
Catonsville’s defense, that included three blocked shots from Dickey and two each from Daniels and Douglas, was also relentless.
“We came out from the jump with the idea of we are going to run this team, we are going to get up and down the court and we are going to make good passes, hustle and that’s what I tried to do for the team and I was very successful at that and everybody was successful at that,” Dickey said.
Mohler also praised the all-around play of junior Daniels, who led the Comets with eight rebounds.
“That was, in all honesty, the best she has played in three years,” Mohler said. “That just shows what kind of player she can be. She really went after it.”
Gast, who will play at UMBC next season and is the lone senor starter, wasn’t ready for the season to end.
“It’s really exciting. I can’t even put it into words, honestly. “This has been our goal all year and I’m just excited that we are finally here,” Gast said.
Mohler also knows the climb to the top is not finished.
“What I told the kids is ‘you don’t climb Mount Everest and stop 200 feet short of the summit, lets finish the job.’ We know Saturday we are going to play a quality opponent. We just hope we are ready to get to the summit.”
Jameila Barrett 26, Gabby Douglas 18, Jasmine Dickey 14, Jen Gast 4, Stashia Daniels 1, Amber Lally 1.
North Point 40
Necole Hope 13, Aliyah Bullock 12, Latavia Jackson 8, Synia Johnson 3, Kennedy Davis 2, Camille Robinson 2.
Halftime: Catonsville 30, North Point 25.