The Catonsville girls trailed at halftime to Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 27-13, in the Class 4A girls state semifinals and the defending state champion Comets were shooting 18.2 percent (6-for-33) from the field.
But, the Comets (23-3) didn’t panic, they came out and played smothering full-court defense and started hitting more shots (18-for-40) and they outscored the Barons 50-24 in the second half and emerged with a 63-51 victory at Towson University’s SECU Arena.
The Comets will play Eleanor Roosevelt in the state championship game on Saturday, March 10 at 3 p.m.
Jasmine Dickey led the Comets with 30 points and 17 rebounds, but she didn’t start getting her offensive groove until the second half when she scored 24 points.
She was 3-for-17 from the floor in the first half and 9-for-16 in the second.
“I don’t really know what was going on in the first half, but we picked it up in the second half,” said Dickey, who has 2,068 career points.
Bethesda coach Ryan Ingalis knew what was happening in the first half when the Barons (20-5) lead got as big as 17 points, after two free throws by Caroline Orza made it 25-8 with 5:21 left in the half.
“In the first half, we were playing team defense and team offense and looking up at the scoreboard, I wasn’t surprised,” Ingalis said.
Catonsville coach Mike Mohler certainly was surprised.
“There wasn’t any rebel-rousing halftime speech, it was guys, ‘I’m looking at a team I haven’t seen since ever, not this year,” Mohler said. “We were doing things uncharacteristically, our passing was atrocious, our defense was atrocious, we were just letting people get open, they got eight points alone just on people we were just not guarding.”
The Barons got eight points in the first half from senior Caitlyn Clendenin, who finished with a team-high 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
“We knew it was going to be a competitive game, but we really wanted to be the aggressor the first half and we wanted to make sure we got them up and down the court and it kind of flipped and they were becoming the aggressor,” said Catonsville senior Jameila Barrett, who finished with 15 points. “We weren’t getting back on defense and they were just getting a whole bunch of transition points.”
Catonsville stayed in the game because they forced 15 of Bethesda’s 28 turnovers in the first half.
Early in the third quarter, the tenacious defense of Gabby Douglas and Dickey, who led the Comets with three steals each, triggered a flurry of turnovers in Bethesda’s backcourt to fuel a Catonsville rally.
“They definitely started to face-guard more, instead of more off-ball press and we started just throwing the ball away,” Bethesda’s Charlotte Lowndes said.
Catonsville went on a 17-3 run in the first 4:45 of the third quarter and tied the game at 30-30.
Dickey scored eight, Barrett had six points and Douglas made a three-pointer right after getting her fourth foul.
“I was feeling it,” Douglas said.
She was also feeling the momentum switch and the Comets increased hustle on defense.
“I think that we really realized that we were going to keep going or we were going home, so we got every single ball, before we were letting them get the half and half balls and we stepped it up and started getting them,” Douglas said.
Dickey’s short jumper made it 32-30 with 2:59 left in the third quarter, but Clendenin scored the next eight points during an 8-2 surge.
Her first field goal, with 2:26 left, was the first of the quarter for the Barons.
Catonsville’s Sophi Wrisk made two clutch free throws to cut the deficit to 38-36 with 30 seconds left.
Barrett’s two free throws ignited a 7-0 Catonsville run in the first 42 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Dickey scored on a putback and converted a three-point play and Catonsville’s lead was 43-38 with 7:18 remaining.
Clendenin pulled the Barons within three, 43-40, with 6:43 left, but that was the closest they would get the rest of the way.
They did cut it to four, 55-51, on a floater by Lowndes with 1:57 remaining, but the Comets closed the deal with two points from Barrett, a three-point play by Stashia Daniels and three free throws from Dickey.
Despite being the game’s high scorer, Dickey deflected the praise.
“I’m not here because I got myself here, I’m here because my teammates got me here and my coaches got me here,” said Dickey, who will play at the University of Delaware next year. “Honestly, we are all MVPs, we all did this together. It feels great, but we are all in this together.”
Mohler knew that at halftime and he never panicked.
“It was just not us and we said, ‘Let’s just turn them loose in the second half and let our athletes take over’ and they did.”
Jasmine Dickey 30, Jameila Barrett 15, Stashia Daniels 9 Gabby Douglas 5, Sophi Wrisk 2, Aysia Ferguson 2.
Caitlyn Clendenin 22, Charlotte Lowndes 9, Stephanie Howell 9, Merete Cowles 5, Caroline Orza 4, Eve McGloon 2.
Halftime: Bethesda 27-13