Catonsville defense smothers Franklin in convincing triumph

Catonsville proved that practice makes perfect on Wednesday night in its 51-23 triumph over visiting Franklin.

The Comets (15-2), who lost by a point last season to the Indians (10-7), worked overtime in practice on its trapping press defense and unleashed it during the first quarter when they built a 14-2 lead and never looked back.

“Usually, we start out every game with high pressure to see how many easy baskets we can get and just work from there,” said senior Maddie Hunt, who had seven of her nine points in the first quarter.

Taylor Barton (13 points, 10 rebounds) added six points in the quarter.

Deb Milani (8 points, 6 steals, 4 assists) and Andrea McTaggert each had a pair of steals in the quarter when the Comets forced 14 Franklin turnovers and allowed only five shots from the field.

Except for the opening tap, which the Indians won, the Indians didn’t get the ball past halfcourt until Mara Izzard (10 points, 4 steals) scored a layup with 5:01 left in the quarter. By that time, they trailed 7-2.

“Coach Mike (Mohler) has been drilling that press into us and we been doing it for like 40 minutes in practice,” said Barton, who noted they are also running more in practice.

Foul trouble forced Mohler to go to his bench earlier than he would have liked, but freshman Lila Nazarian contributed four points, a rebound, assist and steal in the second quarter.

“Lila gave us great minutes,” Mohler said. “She is so athletic. She is unbelievable.”

Barton, who had seven points in the second quarter, hit a three-pointer with 5:40 left in the half to stretch the lead to 21-6 and it eventually grew to 29-12 at intermission.

“I told the kids at halftime it was maybe the best half we’ve played, just from moving the ball and getting good shots and good team play,” said Mohler, whose squad shot just 27 percent overall from the field.

They took nearly twice as many shots (66 to 35) and held Franklin in to just nine made field goals.

“I think our defense definitely helped pick up our offense and them not scoring picked us up,” said Hunt, who added four assists and her traditional stellar defense.

When she was in the game with senior classmate Milani, who battled foul trouble, the Indians struggled to make clean passes.

“Deb is just so disruptive and Maddie plays such solid defense,” Mohler said.

Franklin’s interior defense was also disruptive when then Comets penetrated as the trio of Blaire Ross (9 rebounds), Cara Murphy (6 rebounds) and Whisper Fisher combined for nine blocked shots.

Junior guard Jordan McDowell added five points and freshman Aly Axman had two points and four rebounds.

“We certainly didn’t want to play a halfcourt game with their big girls,” Mohler said.

They knew the Indians would have trouble with the press because they had scouted them three times while scouting previous opponents.

“I give credit to (assistant coach) Al Fultz,” Mohler said. “I said ‘Heck, you are going to know Franklin better than Franklin knows Franklin.

Hence, the fullcourt press.

“We told them in pre-game, ‘We want pressure, pressure, pressure,’” Mohler said.

Obviously, they heard him loud and clear.

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