While winning 22 games this season, the No. 9 Catonsville girls basketball team relied on the consistency of its defense. But that defense had no answer for Paint Branch and its high-octane offense as the visiting Comets fell, 73-37, in the Class 4A North region championship game Saturday night.
The Panthers (23-2) will play in the Class 4A state semifinals at Towson University's SECU Arena against Eleanor Roosevelt at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Paint Branch's backcourt trio of Dasia Harris (22 points), Kiara Colston (19) and Tyra Sinclair (15) combined for 56 points.
Harris, who will play at Drexel next season, scored 15 of her points in the first half as the Panthers built a 39-16 lead. Paint Branch set the tone by stretching its man-to-man defense out to half-court and preventing the Comets' half-court offense from finding a rhythm. The Comets missed 22 of their first 23 field-goal tries in the first half.
"Catonsville has a real good half-court offense and they run all those back screens, so we had to be real fundamentally sound against them because they are such a good offensive team," Paint Branch coach Rochelle Coleman said. "We stressed defense in our pregame and on the film, and they came out and they executed."
Breya Wallace and Jennifer Gast had the only field goals in the half for Catonsville, but the Comets scored 12 points from the free-throw line. Harris, Colston and Sinclair all made 3-pointers in the first quarter for the Panthers, who finished with 10 3s.
"I didn't expect us to shoot like that tonight," Coleman said. "That was nice."
Harris, who will play at Drexel University next year, expected the hot shooting.
"We were incredible," she said. "We came in the gym early and we got right with it and we just started shooting."
Going into the game, the Panthers had made 113 3-pointers during the season.
"We got beat in every facet of the game," Catonsville coach Mike Mohler said. "We had hoped we were prepared, but we just got beat by a far better team. We had to play a near-perfect game, and we didn't."
Catonsville was led by senior Taylor Barton, who finished with 15 points. It was the final game for Barton, who was the first Comet to surpass 600 rebounds and 1,000 points in school history. The four-year varsity player will play at Mary Washington College next year.
Senior Wallace will also graduate this in the spring, but the Comets return 14 players from their current roster. Junior Renee Gast had eight rebounds and four steals to go along with five points, and junior Maya Wichhart had eight rebounds.
But they weren't enough to offset the inside play of Autumn Ashe (11 rebounds) and Nicola Ekuba (five blocked shots), who contested Comet drives all night.
"They just played together as a team, and when we do that, we can do good things." Coleman said. The title was Paint Branch's first regional crown since 2009, a year after they won a state championship.
"We had a good year," Mohler said. 'It doesn't take away from the year we had,"
No. 1 McDonogh wins Bishop Walsh Invitational: The Eagles (29-2) won three straight, including a 39-37 championship win over Good Counsel (20-15), at the Bishop Walsh Invitational Tournament.
McDonogh beat St. Maria Goretti, 69-30, in Thursday's opening round and Elizabeth Seton (26-6), 51-39, on Friday to advance to the final.
Mardela 101, Havre de Grace 13: The Warriors (12-9) trailed 20-5 after one quarter and 50-7 at the half.
Taylor Smith scored five points for Havre de Grace in the Class 1A East region title game.