February wasn’t all that kind to Francis Scott Key’s girls basketball team.
The Eagles secured the outright Carroll County Athletic League championship one month ago Tuesday, then dropped three of their next four games. Those games didn’t mean too much at the time, with a top seed for the Class 1A West Section 2 playoffs in view and the program’s first county title in 32 years already earned.
But TJ Develin, in his first year as Key’s coach, didn’t like the path his girls were taking with the postseason approaching.
“I wasn’t sleeping much,” Develin said.
Still, he felt confident the Eagles could regain their from come playoff time, which began Tuesday at home against Boonsboro in the sectional semifinals.
March seems to be more favorable to Francis Scott Key — the Eagles established their dominance in the middle two quarters and rolled to a 68-30 victory, doing a lot to erase the woes that plagued them for the better part of last month.
“It was definitely a reset,” said senior forward Karla Stonesifer, who paced FSK with 17 points and 12 rebounds. “I think we just needed that … like Coach says, a punch in the face.”
The Eagles (19-4) landed their own knockout blow after they got through the first quarter leading 17-14. They got feisty on defense and came up with a handful of steals, led by Stonesifer and freshman guard Savannah Brooks.
Those turnovers led to points at the other end of the court — Stonesifer scored six and Sara Warthen, a senior guard, had seven of her 14 points in the second quarter. Warthen sank a 3-pointer — and made a free throw upon drawing a foul — with 2 minutes, 2 seconds to go before halftime that gave Key a 35-17 lead and gave the home fans a jolt.
Warthen drained another 3 with 1:01 to go from the top of the arc, coming off the second of back-to-backs steals from Stonesifer, and the Eagles led 38-17.
Meanwhile, Boonsboro got outscored 21-3 in the second frame and went 0-for-11 from the floor. The Warriors managed only four points (one field goal) in the third quarter to FSK's 26, and the rout was on.
Senior swing player Bailey Mathias had 16 points, and she and Warthen connected on three 3-pointers apiece. Brooks collected seven steals, six rebounds, and four assists, and senior forward Kennedy Cornick grabbed eight boards.
The Eagles advance to play Smithsburg in the Section 2 final Thursday.
Kaitlyn Rogers led Boonsboro (13-11) with 10 points.
Francis Scott Key dropped CCAL games to Winters Mill and South Carroll in February, and ended the regular season with a 47-39 loss to Smithsburg on Feb. 21. With a lengthy break upcoming because of a first-round playoff bye, Develin set up a scrimmage with Oakdale in an effort to give his players a chance to stay sharp.
“We had so much success early, and then just waiting around, almost, for the playoffs,” Develin said. “We fixed it. [The scrimmage] really helped us with getting back … it’s been a while since we played.”
Boonsboro led 12-11 late in the first quarter after FSK opened the game on a 9-2 run. The Warriors were getting beat inside, but after a timeout they seemed to settle in. When Rogers scored on a layup with 1:08 to go, Boonsboro trailed 16-14. The visitors couldn’t have known they’d score only seven points over the next two quarters.
Credit Francis Scott Key’s strong defense and athletic style of play, a style the Eagles themselves can’t quite describe when everything is clicking — even when they’re loving every second of it.
“Amazing … speechless!” a smiling Brooks said, with her eyes closed. “If we do something good, we know, ‘All right, energy is up.’ And then if we do it over and over and over again, our energy just shoots through the roof. And we’re just going.”