UNIONTOWN — Hanging high on the walls around the Louis Beard Gymnasium at Francis Scott Key High School are banners representing the school’s county, regional and state championship winning teams.
The Eagles’ girls basketball team has some recognition on these banners — county and regional championships in 1987, and a state title in 1997. They captured a share of the Carroll County Athletic League title with a home victory over Manchester Valley two weeks ago, and the Eagles defeated visiting Liberty 53-43 to win the outright county title Tuesday.
Kennedy Cornick’s mother held up a sign that read “County Champs” in sparkly purple letters as the FSK crowd chanted the same sentiment at the conclusion of the game. Fans created a human tunnel for the girls to run through as they left the gym for the locker room.
“It’s amazing, and it honestly hasn’t even sunk in yet that this is happening,” said senior Karla Stonesifer. ‘We’re county champs and I just have this amazing feeling.”
Freshman guard Savannah Brooks essentially said she was speechless.
Stonesifer led the way with a double-double on 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Eagles (17-1, 10-0 CCAL). She is the lone CCAL player averaging a double-double this season. Her leadership has paved the way for improvement throughout the entire program in the two years she’s spent on varsity.
Brooks said Stonesifer is “great,” and that she doesn’t have a selfish bone in her body.
“I’ve grown so much but it’s not just myself improving,” Stonesifer said. “The whole team and every team I’ve had, not just this year and last year, since I was a freshman, everybody has pushed me. I’ve had so many influences that help me become this way so I think I’ve always had potential…my team helps me a lot, they’re so encouraging.”
Stonesifer scored 10 of her 26 points in the first quarter to help the Eagles build a 14-0 lead before a free throw from Rachel Thiem got Liberty on the board with 1 minute, 45 seconds remaining. FSK carried a 15-3 lead into the second quarter and the Eagles collected six steals in the frame — four of those came from Brooks.
A pair of free throws from Emeline Haroldson and two 3-pointers from Jess Littlejohn, one at the buzzer, brought the Lions into double digits, but they trailed by 21 points at 32-11.
Littlejohn scored 12 points, and all of them came from 3-pointers. Liberty (6-11, 3-5) erased its deficit with a big second half, scoring 14 points in the third quarter and 18 in the fourth.
Thiem scored eight of her team-high 14 points in the final frame.
The Eagles have two county games, against Winters Mill and South Carroll, remaining on their schedule, and coach TJ Develin said he feels “extremely blessed” to be a part of this program.
Brooks said he stresses the importance of no individual teams during practices. The girls work with everyone between varsity and junior varsity so they garner as much experience as possible.
“Being the third coach in three years and having them just buy in to me and our other assistants to do what they’re doing is beyond belief,” Develin said. “To be honest with you, I didn’t expect this going into it but they deserve every bit of it.”
Liberty (43): Ashley Gitau 2, Rachel Thiem 14, Christine Goetz 1, Alex Bull 3, Kassie O’Hern 2, Emeline Haroldsen 6, Jess Littlejohn 12, Val Thompson 3.
Francis Scott Key (53): Karla Stonesifer 26, Savannah Brooks 14, Rachel Wright 4, Bailey Mathias 2, Sara Warthen 1, Kennedy Cornick 2, Emily Dell 4.
Halftime: FSK, 32-11.