Two of the most important contributions Amber Lally made during her senior year playing sports at Catonsville High came during games that she started on the bench.
Lally, a three-sport athlete, who shares the 2017 Catonsville Times Female Athlete of the Year honor with Jen Gast, proved she was a major asset early in the Comets’ state semifinal and final basketball games on their way to a state championship and 25-2 record.
“In the two biggest games of the year, she plays significant minutes,” said coach Mike Mohler, who guided the Comets to their first-ever girls state basketball title.
In the 64-40 semifinal win over North Point, Lally and freshman Maddie McLean came off the bench midway through the first quarter, when leading scorers and rebounders Jasmine Dickey (23.8 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game) and Gast (11.8 ppg. 10.2 rpg.) each got two fouls, and they helped keep the game close.
Dickey and Gast both returned in the second quarter and the Comets built the lead to 30-21 at halftime.
In the state championship game, a 49-46 triumph over Walt Whitman, Lally’s reserve role heroics came 70 seconds into the contest, when Jamelia Barrett, who scored 26 points in the semifinals, picked up her third foul.
Lally contributed a key steal and created havoc the rest of the half, while guarding Princeton University-bound Abby Meyers (team-high 26 points).
“She [Lally] was thrust into the semifinal game when I’ve got Jen and Jasmine on the bench and she does a great job,” Mohler said. “Then she gets thrust into the championship game 70 seconds into the game and she’s got to play the rest of the half and she’s got to guard arguably the best guard in the state,” Mohler said. “It doesn’t get any tougher than that and she just did a great job.”
In the fourth quarter, Lally drew a charging foul on Meyers, who eventually fouled out.
“She had a huge heart and she would just die to play defense and would do anything not to get beat,” Mohler said.
Lally was Catonsville’s McCormick Unsung Hero nominee at the annual awards banquet.
The pool of nominees comes from all the girls sports played at the school.
“All the coaches of girls sports were in agreement that she was the choice and that’s just a credit to her,” Mohler said. “She knew her role was coming off the bench and playing defense and if she never scored a point it didn’t bother me.”
The 5-foot-5 inch Lally didn’t limit her defensive skills to basketball.
On the volleyball team, coach Amanda Kaufman put her in the back row as a defensive specialist, along with Kateri Wess, and they helped the Comets go 15-2 and be a regional finalist.
Lally had four digs in the regional final loss to Sherwood.
“Without her and Kateri on our defense, we would not have had the season that we had this past year,” Kaufman said.
That season included Catonsville’s first-ever win over Dulaney in Kaufman’s 11 years coaching there and Lally was a key contributor defensively and serving.
Trailing 22-21 in the first set, Lally served out the final four points with one point coming on a service ace.
She finished with three aces and praised her defense after the triumph.
“I think the defense really played hard," Lally said. "We really went out there and we were really focused and we just kept the ball off the floor.”
Lally, Wess, Mitra Harrison and Catherine Ott were the four captains.
“Whether she was on the bench, or during practice, or before matches or after the game, she just led by example,” Kaufman said. “She had such a positive attitude and such a good outlook with everything and she’s a hard worker.”
Catonsville softball coach Steve McCleary saw that work ethic every day.
“She led by example and was the first one to practice every day,” McCleary said. “She wasn’t screwing around. She was going about her job and doing what she had to do without having to yell at anybody — they saw her doing it and they were going to do it too.”
Lally played second base most of her four-year varsity career and also filled in at shortstop.
“She was a model of consistency,” McCleary said. “The kid would give you everything she had every game.”
As the only starting senior, on a team with only two on the roster, her leadership stood out.
“She was a kid who could calm the others down on the field if things weren’t going right,” said McCleary, who took over the head coaching position the same year Lally made the varsity as freshman. “I guess I kind of grew up with her those four years. It’s tough seeing her go.”
Lally heads off to the College of Charleston, S.C., in the fall.
“I had a talk with her and asked if she was going to play anything at College of Charleston because she can play more than one sport and she said she might play club,” McCleary said. “She could walk on to a couple different sports.”