Junior point guard Cora Shafer drew the first-ever Crofton free throws before dropping in the first basket. Junior Emma Beyer forced the first turnover, the one that led to that basket by Shafer, and shortly after sophomore Lily Maher followed with the team’s first made jumper.
None of those stats will make record books or survive in many memories. But they will forever be the first in Crofton girls basketball history. They’ll also be among the things that led to the program’s first win.
The Cardinals marked their first winter with triumph in a 40-34 defeat of Severn on Monday, the first play date for public school teams. Crofton, like several other schools, also recorded the county’s first public school regular season games in about 900 days after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the 2020-21 campaign.
“I think we did amazing,” said Shafer, who led with 15 points. “I don’t know how we’re going to do the rest of the season, but that being our first game, we all did amazing and we worked well together.”
Crofton coach Jonathan Mason, previously at Glen Burnie, doesn’t feel the impact as much as a seasoned high school varsity coach. He could tell the weight of a full crowd and screaming gym struck many of his players.
“It’s more of an adjustment for them. They have to get used to it,” Mason said. “Some of them have never been in this type of environment with basketball.”
Shafer’s not one of them, not only as a Crofton volleyball player but as one of the Cardinals’ few club players with experience showing off before college coaches in high level games.
She could feel the energy shift in the gym from volleyball to basketball season, the crowd seeping in her head more than in the fall, but understood it like a second language. The flow often traveled through her, not only as she sparked most of the drives, but in turnovers, blocks, rebounds and passing and in moving her teammates to their proper spots on the floor.
“I’ve played my whole life,” she said, “and I feel everyone looks up to me because of that.”
But it was far from Shafer and everybody else. From the start, Crofton’s defense gummed up Severn’s shooting. The Admirals managed only three outside points until the final seconds of the first quarter as failed basket opportunities littered the paint.
It’s not that the Cardinals poured it down in the first quarter, leading 7-5 going into the second, but they did match Severn’s scoring in turnovers.
At least, for a half and a narrow 15-14 halftime lead.
“Second half, we slacked. We got tired,” Mason said. “First half is one of the positives that we did.”
There were negative firsts for Crofton to coincide the positives. First travel, first turned over ball and many missed shots. The first surrendered lead came following Severn junior Megan Murphy’s free throw in the second quarter and again in the third — an opening triple.
But there were other good things you can’t fit on a scoresheet: the Crofton boys basketball team chanting “defense” from the bleachers, the announcer riling up the basketball crowd. They were things Crofton hadn’t had before like this, things missing from Anne Arundel public school gyms — outside of volleyball –—for two years.
That increased in intensity as freshman Vanessa Carmichael tied things at 21 with Crofton’s first transition basket, a full-court layup, just before freshman Mollee Corso retook control again for the Cardinals with her first varsity points.
Crofton clutched that 28-24 lead exiting the third quarter but quickly bowed to Admiral junior Kacey Hopkins’ three-point play.
“Unfortunately we make the same mistakes in practice that happen in the game. We’ve just got to tighten that up,” Mason said. “But defense helped us this game and is something we can be proud of tonight.”
But when Severn had the chance to improve upon a 31-30 lead with a layup, Shafer came flying in and batted the shot attempt out of the sky. She would then knot things at 34 when given free throw shots — just as she started the game — and rain down the second-to-last Cardinals basket that solidified the historic moment.
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“We never could settle down,” Mason said, “but we got timely baskets and pulled that thing out.”