If Catonsville coach Mike Mohler could bottle the way his girls basketball team played against Notre Dame Prep (5-8) in the first quarter and watch them pour it on like that every quarter, the Comets (6-3) could be headed back to the state tournament’s final four for a third straight year.
In the Public vs Private Challenge tournament at McDonogh School on Saturday afternoon, the Comets forced 12 turnovers in the first quarter and all five starters scored as they built a 15-6 lead on the way to a 49-29 victory.
Aysia Ferguson (eight points) led the way with six points in the opening stanza, while Gabby Douglas (game-high 13 points), Sophi Wrisk, Rianna Saunders and Larrie Sydnor each added two points.
Maddi McLean added a free throw, which was the longest made shot of the quarter.
In fact, a three-pointer by Douglas in the third quarter and 12-foot bank shot by Princess Lawson (10 points) were the only outside field goals the Comets made all afternoon.
“We came out with a lot of intensity in the first half with our presses and I think that really set us up to get a lot of fast breaks and layups,” Douglas said. “We weren’t really hitting a lot of our outside shots, so we needed to apply in a different way.”
Mohler was impressed with the early pressure defense and the plays they ran in set situations.
“I thought the first quarter was one of the better quarters we played all year,” Mohler said. “We talked a lot about trying to get it into fourth gear, we haven’t been there all year. We’ve been stuck in second or third and I thought we were close in the first quarter, playing at a level that we need to play all the time, but we couldn’t sustain it.”
Notre Dame Prep senior guard Alex Fava, who led the Blazers with 11 points, admitted the defensive pressure was disturbing.
“This year is like a rebuilding year and so we are not used to this high-pressure high-level basketball,” Fava said. “Most of us are other sport athletes, lots of lacrosse players, I’m a soccer player, so we are not used to this intense kind of defense that we have to play against.”
The Comets forced 19 turnovers in the first half and 26 through three quarters.They also got in foul trouble, but the Blazers couldn’t capitalize.
They missed 15 straight free throws, from when Addie Fischer (six points) made one with 4:13 left in the first half, until Ellie DeFries canned two with 1:50 left in the game.
Douglas had six points in the second quarter and Ferguson made a five-foot short jumper with 4:50 left until halftime that was the longest made shot of the half for the Comets, who led 25-10 at intermission.
Spearheaded by seven points from Fava, the Blazers had their best quarter after halftime, only being outscored, 13-11.
Mohler cited unforced turnovers and poor shot selection for the third-quarter lapse, which was lessened by strong play off the bench from Lawson.
She had six points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal in the quarter.
“She’s so good,” Douglas said. “We definitely are strong with our bigs this year, we’ve got some tall girls and Princess is one of them that just comes out and wherever the ball is she just wants it and she goes and gets it.”
Any chance for a Notre Dame Prep rally was squelched by eight straight missed free throws to start the fourth quarter.
Despite the lopsided victory, Mohler, whose Comets won the 2017 Class 4A state title and lost in the 2018 state finals, is still searching for his team’s identity.
“We are just a work in progress. We haven’t figured out what we do really well yet,” Mohler said. “We’ve just got to get to that point where we figure it out. There are too many lapses and our focus is not there like it needs to be.”
Gabby Douglas 13, Princess Lawson 10, Aysia Ferguson 8, Maddi McLean 5, Rianna Saunders 4, Larrie Sydnor 3, Sophi Wrisk 2, Renny Sydnor 2, Ashley Dickey 2.
Notre Dame Prep (29)
Alex Fava 11, Addie Fischer 6, Ellie DeFries 6, Anna Melchionni 4, Sophie Davis 2.