UNIONTOWN — Francis Scott Key girls basketball coach TJ Develin re-entered the gymnasium, toddler in tow, following the Eagles’ playoff loss to Smithsburg.
Once inside, he was met with hugs, tears, and compliments from his Eagles players thanking him for his leadership this season. The county champions for the first time since 1987 were defeated by the Leopards 53-46 in the Class 1A West Section 2 final Thursday.
“I’m very proud,” Develin said about his first year as coach. “Taking over, I was a little nervous at first, just teaching and coaching girls for the first time. The group I stepped into, I say it every game, I couldn’t be more blessed with the group I have, from varsity down to JV. They’re an outstanding group and we have the community behind us, like we’ve had, it’s been awesome.”
Senior guard Sara Warthen led the Eagles with 17 points — nine of which came from 3-pointers — and freshman guard Savannah Brooks scored 12 for the Eagles (19-5).
The Eagles outscored the Leopards 9-2 early in the first quarter until 3-pointers from Leah Lindsay and Ashley Davis brought the Leopards within one, 9-8. A pair of baskets from Warthen gave the Eagles a 13-12 edge at the end of the first quarter.
A steal-turned-layup from Heather Barnes helped the Leopards garner their first lead of the game, and they extended that lead to 17-13 before Warthen’s 3 cut the deficit down to one. Brooks hit a 3, which ignited chants of “She’s a freshman” from the FSK student section.
The Leopards went 6-for-10 from the free-throw line to hold on to a 27-23 lead over FSK at the break.
FSK senior Karla Stonesifer notched a pair of steals to get the Eagles back on offense and Warthen hit another 3 to bring the girls within six, 32-26. The Leopards went on a 7-0 scoring run, sparked by another 3 from Barnes, but the Eagles’ defense held strong to keep the Leopards from tacking on more points as the quarter winded down.
The Eagles missed a couple of shot opportunities down the stretch, but Warthen remained accurate from the 3-point line. A layup from senior forward Bailey Mathias brought FSK within four, 50-46, but the Leopards got four free throws from Ashley Davis to close out the game.
“We knew it was going to be tough competition but it’s always fun playing against them because we match up really well against them,” FSK senior Kennedy Cornick said. “Being able to have that battle going back and forth, back and forth and not only having them make us better but us making them better and being able to have good sportsmanship at the end of the game, thanking them for giving us competition — that means the most.”
FSK and Smithsburg last met on Feb. 25 and the Leopards got the best of the Eagles 47-39. Like FSK, Develin said, the Leopards of Washington County play bigger schools and get challenged just as the Eagles have in Carroll County Athletic League play all season.
Sometimes, he added, the ball just doesn’t fall your way.
“We knew it was going to be a battle, and it was,” Develin said. “It came down to the final seconds so we knew that was the expectation … I can’t be more proud of their effort.”
Smithsburg (53): Heather Barnes 16, Bailey Grove 8, Ashley Davis 17, Lexi Henderson 7, Leah Lindsay 3, Makayla Rummel 2.
Francis Scott Key (46): Karla Stonesifer 8, Savannah Brooks 12, Bailey Mathias 2, Sara Warthen 17, Kennedy Cornick 7.