Mike Mohler, Catonsville
In his 22nd season as the Comets' girls basketball coach, Mohler guided them to their first state title as they emerged from one of the state's toughest regions to edge the defending champion for the Class 4A crown.
In arguably the most challenging path to a state championship for any team this winter, the Comets defeated then-No. 4 Howard, 51-45, in the North regional final, rolled by North Point, 64-40, in the state semifinal and defeated Walt Whitman, 49-46, in the final. They finished 26-2 with the No. 3 ranking.
Mohler said he saw the possibility of a great season during the holiday Title IX Classic at the D.C. Armory in December. Playing Anacostia, from Washington, the Comets trailed by 16 points in the second half before winning 59-56 in overtime.
"It would have been so easy for them to just say, 'Bag this. We'll see you in the new year, Coach,' and they didn't," Mohler said. "To me, that was the light bulb that said this team doesn't want to quit on anything any time."
Also the All-Metro Coach of the Year in 1994 during a one-year stop at Seton Keough before taking over at Catonsville, Mohler thanked his first-year assistant coach Mandy Fischer for helping the Comets reach the title game for the first time since 1987.
The state championship was also the first for any Catonsville team since the girls lacrosse team won in 1996.
This winter, the Comets lost to perennial neighborhood nemesis Seton Keough during the regular season and then dropped the Baltimore County championship to No. 9 New Town, which went on to win the Class 2A state title.
Mohler took the blame for losing that game and said nobody talked about it much afterward. They just moved on regionals.
He said "resiliency" was a big part of the Comets' success this season from coming back against Anacostia to bouncing back from the county title loss to win the state championship.
"Having never done this before," Mohler said, "you always hear people talk about how hard it it is, how hard it is to win a state championship. It is truly hard. Everything has to go right. You can't have too many things go wrong and expect to win, at least not against the competition we played, not Howard, North Point or Whitman."
While Mohler, with scouting help from his son Brenndan Mohler, had the right game plan for each of those three foes, he also molded a team that played well together. While two-time All-Metro forward-guard Jasmine Dickey led the way and scored 30 points in the state final, each of his other starters — Jen Gast, Jameila Barrett, Gabby Douglas and Stashia Daniels — made key plays as well.
Luckily for Mohler, all but Gast return next season.