Thirty minutes after a game and 35 years of coaching gave Catonsville girls basketball coach Mike Mohler the most valuable resource a coach has at his disposal: perspective.
Yes, the Comets dropped the Baltimore County championship game to New Town, 58-51, Friday night, and his freshman point guard had picked perhaps the worst possible moment to play like a freshman, but what are you gonna do?
"That's the way it is," said Mohler, shrugging his shoulders outside the locker room. "She's played enough and she's the best player at that position for us. I just have to live with it and hope that she grows up. And she has.
"Mistakes were made, but these are high school kids. She's 14 years old. What are you going to do? Get angry? Nah. They're great kids. They're taking the loss really hard, and they should. When you're so close and you fought back ... "
The Comets (19-4), making their first county title game appearance in four years, turned the ball over a whopping 14 times in the first quarter Friday, thanks largely to a relentless New Town press that hawked and harassed them all over the floor. Even when Catonsville could get into its sets, it was unable to convert for most of the first half.
And yet, after trailing by 10 points twice, including deep into the third quarter, there were the Comets, hanging around and hanging around, slicing their deficit to two in the final two minutes, with a one-and-one opportunity that could have tied the game.
But, in keeping with the way things went for the Comets from the foul line all night (13-for-27), they missed the front end and never scored again.
"Not a great night to have a bad night," said Mohler with a chuckle. "We had a couple of lapses, but I told the kids it was a coach's loss. We weren't prepared enough down the stretch. That timeout doesn't do me any good now. I had a timeout and I probably should have let it play out. I probably should have settled us. I was thinking, 'OK, let's see what happens.'
"I feel bad for the kids that we weren't better prepared in that situation. But it was a good game. It's 53-51 and we got a kid on the line shooting one-and-one."
And now is where the fun starts, namely the state tournament. The Comets earned a No. 2 seed in the Class 3A North region behind Western and a first-round bye to next week's regional quarterfinal, where they will host the winner of the Lake Clifton-Carver game.
The week off will give Catonsville's talented young backcourt of sophomore Jessica Nonn and freshman Shamika Williams another week of seasoning. The pair has been playing together with McDonogh's Alex Brennan since Amateur Athletic Union days and they complement each other solidly.
"Me and Shamika go way back," said Nonn, who had eight points Friday night. "We [Williams, Nonn and Brennan] were unstoppable. When Shamika came to high school, it just clicked because we've been together so long."
Nonn, who also plays soccer and lacrosse at Catonsville, is a terrific on-the-ball defender, with an uncanny ability to swipe down at the ball from dribblers without drawing contact.
"It's just the fact that the ball's right there and you have to somehow get it back," Nonn said. "You have to do everything you can to work for it. Then, once you get it, it's like a reward to you. You feel good about yourself for getting the ball back and playing the good defense."
Williams, who led the Comets in scoring Friday with 15 points, is a gifted scorer and probably needs just a little more work at bearing up under an intense press on the order of what New Town threw at her, to become one of the area's elite.
"It's a maturity level thing," Mohler said. "At this level of competition, with this much going on and constant pressure, it was tough. I give New Town credit. It [the pressure] is constant. It doesn't stop, even after you break pressure. It's constant. We tried to work on that. It's just growing up and maturity. She [Williams] grew up a lot [Friday night]. She's going to be a good one, one of the best we've ever had."
With just two seniors, the Comets can approach the tournament with the feeling that they're playing poker with money they found in the couch. Everything is a bonus, and there's reason to believe that they'll play better after playing more hands.
"This [season] was a surprise because I was unsure about what we were going to do about the point," Mohler said. "We overachieved, and [Friday's] game made me happy to think that we have come a long way. We're not inexperienced, but we're not totally experienced. We're just a good team. We're balanced, with no outstanding real scorer, but that's our system. We just have a steady stream of good kids who work hard."
And a coach with solid perspective. email@example.com