With six freshmen on the roster, Seton Keough's girls basketball team is a work in progress, and the No. 13 Gators took another significant step Saturday.
In a game they led by 12 points with two and a half minutes left, the Gators held off a furious rally from No. 11 Catonsville to take a 35-30 victory and win the first Catonsville Cup.
The visiting Gators (2-3) earned their neighborhood bragging rights with a 9-0 third-quarter run that provided just enough separation to hang on at the end. Junior Jade Porter, who led all scorers with 11 points, had five of her seven rebounds during the run and hit a follow shot to begin the quarter and give Seton Keough a 26-21 lead.
As five players scored in the Gators run, the Comets managed just one shot and turned the ball over six times. Imani Hudson fed freshman Kaila Jennings to give Seton Keough the biggest lead of the game, 33-21, with 2:40 to go.
"Our defense was the difference," Porter said. "We were a little shaky because of the crowd at first, but we got a timeout, composed ourselves and got back together on defense."
The Comets (2-1) battled to come back with two free throws each from Jen Gast and Renee Gast. Breya Wallace then came away with a steal and fed Renee Gast for two points. Gast then hit a follow shot off Andrea McTaggart's 3-point attempt to cut the lead to 33-29 with 29 seconds left.
Taylor Barton added the first of two free throws with 10 seconds to go to pull within three, but the Comets fouled Taylor Bolden on the rebound and Bolden hit both ends of the one-and-one with seven seconds to go.
Seton Keough coach Jody Powell played five freshmen and 12 of her 14 players in the victory.
"For a coaching staff to be able to get 12 people in a game — and a high level game — to me is remarkable," she said. "We're still looking for the group that has chemistry. We have five people that can play lock-down defense but they can't score and we have people who are prolific scorers but they don't defend that well. We're working on that, but they're all so young."
For the Comets, who turned the ball over 32 times and hit just nine of 25 free throws, the game was exactly the kind of gauge coach Mike Mohler sought in an early non-league game.
"We needed another minute on the clock," Mohler said with a laugh. "But, still, it was a great game for us to play, because we're not going to see this until we see the [Milford Mills] and the like later on, so [Seton Keough] certainly exposed a lot of things we need to work on. They really came at us and it was great for us."
The Comets top player, 6-foot forward Barton, was held to six points in part by the strong defense of freshman Jewel Porter and in part by early foul trouble. Jen Gast, a 6-2 freshman center, led Catonsville with eight points.
The game was also part of an afternoon of basketball to benefit The Kropfelder Foundation for Melanoma Education and Research in honor of Mohler's long-time friend David Kropfelder. A three-sport standout at Mount St. Joseph who became a highly-respected boys basketball referee, Kropfelder died of melanoma in 2003.
In the first game of the day, No. 2 Mount St. Joseph defeated the Comets boys, 74-33.
Seton Keough 35, Catonsville 30
SK—Alley 5, Hudson 2, Jennings 4, Davis 6, Bolden 3, Ja.Porter 11, Smith 4. Totals 13 8-16 35.
C—Wallace 2, McDonald 4, R.Gast 7, Barton 7, Wichhart 2, J.Gast 8. Totals 10 9-25 30. Half: SK, 17-14.