The Catonsville High girls basketball team celebrated its 51-45 win in the Class 4A North Region championship game over host Howard High by going back to its own gym — to cut down the nets.
Catonsville trailed 18-11 after a basket by Howard’s Courtney Furr with 4:50 left in the first half, when the Comets went on an 11-0 run to take a 22-18 lead at the break.
The Comets (24-2) never trailed again and advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals on March 9 at Towson University’s SECU Arena.
Catonsville will play North Point at 3 or 5 p.m.
It is Catonsville’s eighth regional girls basketball crown and first since 2003.
They were state finalists in 1984 and 1987 and have never won a state title.
Jameila Barrett started the run with a three-pointer and Jasmine Dickey (game-high 21 points, 15 rebounds) finished it — by scoring the final eight points in the last 3:24 of the second quarter.
“She [Dickey] is one of the top players in the whole state and it’s great to see big players step up in big moments and she did,” Catonsville coach Mike Mohler said.
Howard coach Scott Robinson was equally impressed.
“I know Mike calls her LeBron and that’s who she was tonight,” said Robinson, who defended Dickey with Jenny Kinsey following her all over the court and the rest of the team playing a 1-3 or diamond-and-one zone.
“It was like a hybrid defense,” Robinson said. “We just tried to limit her scoring.”
Dickey credited her teammates, especially Barrett for hitting the big three-pointer.
“Jameila is an amazing player, so we can always go to her for anything,” Dickey said. “When she did that, it just upped the tempo even more.”
Barrett’s three-pointer early in the fourth quarter bumped the lead to 39-26, but Howard rallied and pulled within three, 46-43, on a basket by Scott with under a minute to play. In the end, though, two free throws by Dickey and two more by Gabby Douglas in the final 35 seconds cemented the victory.
Jen Gast added 12 points and Barrett finished with 10 for the Comets.
Senior Emileigh Scott (16 points), freshman Maria Sanchez-Henry (9) and Taylor Addison (8) led the Lions in scoring.
Catonsville broke out to a 7-1 lead in the first quarter.
Gast opened the scoring with a three-pointer. Douglas dropped in a five-foot teardrop and Stashia Daniels scored on a layup with 5:12 left in the first quarter.
Howard answered with an 8-0 run and took a 9-7 lead.
Scott and Sanchez-Henry scored four each.
Dickey’s putback with 1:37 left tied the score at 9-9, but Sam Lewis’ basket with three seconds left gave the Lions an 11-9 lead at end of the first quarter.
Scott finished after a tough offensive rebound and it was 13-9, Dickey’s basket, after one of her four offensive rebounds in the first half, made it 13-11.
A three-pointer by Sanchez-Henry and the layup by Furr gave the Lions their biggest lead of the game 18-11, with 4:50 left in the half.
Catonsville responded with the 11-0 surge and they carried the momentum into the second half.
“At halftime, we knew we just had to keep coming out strong,” senior Gast said. “We all agreed that we didn’t want it to be our last game and I know we had great momentum throughout the whole game and we just wanted to keep it up.”
Coach Mohler also had a heartfelt halftime message.
“I told the kids in the locker room, and I got pretty emotional, I just said, ‘You are one of my best team’s ever and I want this so much for you,’” said Mohler, in his 22nd year as Catonsville coach. “Every kid just played their heart out.”
Dickey’s six points and Gast’s key three-pointer with 1:56 left in the quarter helped the Comets carry a 34-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Jen Gast hit some big shots, she’s tough, she hit some big threes,” Howard coach Scott Robinson said.
Scott had five points in the third quarter for the Lions.
Dickey’s steal led to an offensive rebound and basket by Gast and Barrett canned a three-pointer and the lead was 39-28 with 6:37 left in the game.
Robinson knew his team had to rebound better in the second half, but the Comets took control of the boards.
“I wrote on the board rebound, rebound, rebound, like seven times and I’ll see the stats,” he said.
At the 5:28 mark, Dickey assisted Gast for a chippie and the Comets’ 42-30 lead was their biggest of the night.
But the resilient Lions outscored the Comets 13-4 and they only trailed 46-43 with 39 seconds left.
“That’s us,” said Howard’s Scott. “That’s our team. We don’t give up. We know that it’s not over until the final buzzer hits and we just wanted to leave everything out there that we worked hard for.”
Howard's rally was short-circuited by blocked shots and rebounds by Daniels and Gast with under 90 seconds left.
Dickey and Douglas' four straight free throws finally pulled the plug on Howard's comeback.
“How about little Gabby [Douglas], a sophomore sitting in there and just icing those free throws,” Mohler said.
“They are a great team,” Robinson said. “I thought we played hard and we fought to the end. We cut it to three with like 40 seconds left and we got a stop.”
Robinson’s squad had reached the region finals after a 74-51 triumph over Western in the semifinals.
“I’m very proud of our team,” Robinson said. “We had a great season, great run, a great win against a very good Western team the other night.”
Catonsville’s champions are just looking forward to playing more basketball.
“I’m so excited,” Gast said. ‘It’s been a long time coming. I’m just excited that we play as a team and I love this team and I can’t wait to continue.”
Dickey felt the same way.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I can’t wait move on. I’m ready to go back to Catonsville and cut down the nets.”
Jasmine Dickey 21, Jen Gast 12, Jameila Barrett 10, Abby Douglas 5, Stashia Daniels 3
Emileigh Scott 16, Maria Sanchez-Henry 9, Taylor Addison 8, Courtney Furr 6, Sam Lewis 6
Halftime: Catonsville 22 Howard 18