The exact same 33-30 score Severna Park girls basketball used to survive its game Friday at Broadneck was there again Tuesday, bright on the Chesapeake-AA scoreboard like a mocking reminder just a few days later.
Except this time, time didn’t expire with that three-point margin. There were still 25 seconds on the clock and the Cougars just scored, getting hot at the right time.
The Falcons hadn’t made a free throw in the fourth quarter. Chesapeake crammed the baseline, blocking nearly every shot. If there was a time for a leader to step up, it was now.
Senior Hanna Verreault took the call.
The point guard drew two fouls in the final 20 seconds and put three of four free throws away, ensuring the Falcons survived Chesapeake for a 36-30 victory.
“I’m proud of the seniors tonight,” Severna Park coach Kris Dean said. “They did tonight what they didn’t do with Broadneck. They stepped up, slowed us down and got us composed.”
The gritty win carries county championship race implications, as both teams are vying for the No. 2 spot behind Glen Burnie. The Falcons (12-3) needed this win to keep pace with South River, which currently sits in second and beat the Falcons earlier this season. .
“Everyone here lives for the competitive aspects,” said Verreault, who had nine points. “We have a lot of revenge we would like to take.”
Well aware of each other’s defensive strengths, both teams eked scoring where they could in the first half amid a field of rebounds. Multiple Falcons wrapped junior Kasey Slade up so that Chesapeake’s big couldn’t score a single easy basket, and the Cougars knew that would happen.
But too often, Chesapeake pushed its possession to the last second on the shot clock and most often, the attempts wouldn’t land.
“While we need to be disciplined, we also need to stick to the game plan and lower the turnovers,” Cougars coach Maria Gray said. “I think we did a good job pushing the ball, but there are lessons we can hopefully capitalize on, and not repeat the same mistakes further down the line.”
Natalie Forman (eight points, 14 rebounds) tried to alter that tempo at the end of the first quarter and into the second. The senior launched a 3-pointer on one side of the frame — to end the first quarter down 10-8 — and another on the other side. She and Slade (10 points, 10 rebounds) flipped the score for the first time to a 13-10 Cougars lead.
Then the Falcons swooped down again.
“We needed to do a better job of getting out in transition, spreading the floor, running our lanes,” Dean said. “Once we started doing that, we picked up the momentum we needed.”
Even a few shots made a massive difference. First, senior center Abby Kavanagh shook her marks at the basket for a shot. Then, Karli Kirchenheiter came off the bench and came through, pushing the Falcons ahead for an 18-13 halftime lead.
Their efforts were still too sloppy, Verreault said. At the intermission, the Falcons wanted to sharpen everything: passes, shots, attacking them at the rim. When they returned, they clearly hit the whetstone. The Cougars’ flex defense bent whether it tried man or zone against Severna Park’s shooters.
“Our chemistry is so good, we can find each other anywhere on the floor,” Verreault said.
Turnovers plagued Chesapeake all evening, but the steals stung more when Severna Park could turn them into points. Sally Trent, Lilly Spilker and Verreault all found their way in to secure the largest lead of the night, 27-19, at the end of the third.
“They had some outside shots that we didn’t contest like we needed to,” Gray said.
“Intensity,” Gray implored of her Cougars just before Ryn Feemster jumped up and pushed Severna Park’s advantage to 10. For a moment, the fourth quarter seemed a repeat of the third.
But the Cougars heard their coach. A 10-point lead became four in mere moments.
On the other end, the Cougars ramped up the defense, forcing five straight empty possessions for Severna Park. The whistle continued to burden the Falcons, too, as Verreault and Cavanaugh both landed in foul trouble. Chesapeake made 3 of 4 foul shots as a result.
Then, Cougars senior Ella Shannon nipped the margin to 33-30 with a quick inbound layup, and the Falcons found themselves at the crossroads. And then, Verreault earned a trip to the line.
All the free-throw practicing Severna Park has done flushed to her mind and flowed through her fingers.
“It feels great,” she said. “At the end of practice, we do free throws and conditioning, so it’s awesome at the end, when you’re super tired, that you can still lock in and make them. Because that’s what we do every day.”