When Century forward Angela Flister looked at the scoreboard at halftime, she saw her team trailing by 20 points for the first time this season, in the state championship against defending champ Calvert.
Still, the senior didn't flinch.
"We always come out in the third quarter really strong, so I was hoping maybe we'll have a super strong third quarter this time," Flister said. "We were really positive coming out of the locker room at halftime, but their offense was just amazing. They were hitting every shot. We pretty much kept the 20-point differential which was good, but it was hard to get ahead."
Flister had to laugh as she uttered that last sentence, and the Knights' starters effused praise for Calvert, which rolled to a 57-22 victory Saturday for its second straight state Class 2A title at UMBC's RAC Arena.
The Cavaliers (26-1) rebounded from a poor showing in Friday's semifinal to blitz the No. 14 Knights with their press. They scored more points off turnovers than Century did in the game — 24 off 26 turnovers. They also shot 48 percent from the field in the first half.
The Carroll County champion Knights (24-3) managed their only lead at 4-3. Then the Cavaliers took off on a 28-5 run that built an insurmountable 32-9 lead three minutes before halftime.
"The last game started out slow," Cavaliers point guard Rachel Loube said, "and we didn't want this to be a repeat. At 4-3, we just knew our goal is to come out strong and keep the momentum … Our press picked it up and we got steals and started looking like us again."
The Knights did pick it up coming out of halftime, but not nearly enough to recover.
Alice Mercer, who led Century with 11 points, scored six of the first eight points to pull within 36-20 with 2:35 left in the third quarter. After that the Knights did not score again until five seconds remained in the game.
"We have always relied on our defense to get us through games," Century junior forward Haley Bordner said. "We have a really great defense and they knew how to break our defense … They were just pushing the ball and they were so fast and they didn't slow down."
In addition to their press and their hot shooting, the Cavaliers held onto the ball exceptionally well for a team that plays with a high tempo. They turned the ball over only nine times, and their three primary ball handlers gave the ball away just twice.
"That's a sign of why they're the state champions twice in a row," Century coach Joel Beard said. "We haven't seen anything like that, and we've played some good teams."
The Cavaliers, who had five players average in double figures this season, got 16 points from stellar junior guard Alexis Smith as well as 15 points and four assists from Loube and 10 points from forward Tiara Lester.
No one other than Mercer hit double figures for the Knights, who shot 23 percent from the field and 1-for-8 from the free throw line. Flister grabbed 10 rebounds.
For a team that starts three Division I lacrosse prospects and only two true basketball players, the Knights were please to be the first girls basketball team in school history to make it to the state tournament and the first Carroll County team to reach the final since Francis Scott Key won the Class 1A title in 1997.
"The sadness isn't the fact that we lost," Flister said. "Since this is a whole new experience for us at Century basketball, coming here is a great opportunity. The sadness is just that it's all over, especially for the seniors, and this is the best team ever. We're all really close."
Gaithersburg 60, Wise 43: The Trojans (27-0) repeated a Class 4A girls champions, winning their 52nd straight game in a rematch of last year's final. Led by two senior forward Jackie Jackson (28 points and 15 rebounds) and senior guard Colleen Marshall (13 points and 12 rebounds) the Trojans dominated the paint. They outrebounded Wise, 49-27, and scored 25 second-chance points. Senior guard Eliqua Brooks led Wise (25-2) with 16 points as the Pumas' 17-game winning streak came to an end.
CAL—Loube 15, Weems 8, Lester 10, Smith 16, Thomas 4, Butler 4. Totals 23 10-13 57.
CEN—Mercer 11, Jones 1, Snyder 2, Dixon 2, Bordner 1, Flister 2, Clark. Totals 10 1-8 22.
Half, CAL, 34-14.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun