by Nelson Coffin
Here’s how close Saturday’s Class 4A state girls’ basketball final between Catonsville High and Prince George’s County’s Eleanor Roosevelt was in terms of statistics.
Both hauled down 39 rebounds. The time-of-possession favored Catonsville by a mere one-second differential. The biggest discrepancy between the rivals, however, was very telling.
Roosevelt canned nearly 40-percent of its shots from the floor, while Catonsville made only 26 percent. Three-point shooting also heavily favored the Raiders, 44 percent (4-for-9) to 18 percent (3-for-16).
In essence, Roosevelt’s defense — and a game-high 29 points by senior guard Aishia McCalla — did in the fourth-ranked Comets, whose bid for a second straight championship was denied in a 60-56 decision at Towson University’s SECU Arena.
“We’ve been pretty much talking about defense all year long,” said Roosevelt coach Delton Fuller, whose team, ranked No. 8 in the District region by the Washington Post, finished 25-3. “That’s why we ran all those hills and ran around the school. The girls didn’t like it, but that’s how we wear teams down.”
That said, Catonsville (23-4) stayed in the game until the bitter end.
“I didn’t think they’d be that tough,” Fuller admitted. “But they were pretty damn good.”
The Baltimore County champ Comets led for a good portion before the Raiders inched ahead for good on a short jumper by junior forward Makayla Adams with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left in the third quarter. Subsequent baskets by junior center Dainajoy McFarlane, Adams and McCalla sandwiched around a jumper by Catonsville star Jasmine Dickey (22 points, game-high 16 rebounds) stretched the Raiders’ cushion to 49-43 entering the final period.
McCalla took over in the final eight minutes, scoring 10 of the Raiders’ 11 final points, including a falling-away 3-pointer from the baseline with two defenders in her face and the shot clock winding down.
“I thought McCalla’s deep three from the corner was kind of a dagger,” Catonsville coach Mike Mohler said. “She had two people draped on her and she buried that thing from the corner. It was so clean it almost didn’t hit the the net. That was a big, big bucket they made there.”
The pivotal play came with four minutes remaining in regulation and upped Roosevelt’s lead to 52-47.
“Obviously, it didn’t go the way we planned,” Mohler added. “I thought we left a lot out on the floor. And sometimes a call here and a call there didn’t seem to go our way. But, saying that, a lot of our turnovers ended up being points for them.”
Dickey was again terrific with 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Comets. But the 5-foot-9 guard/forward could not bring them back Saturday.
A box-and-one defense with three different Raiders — Nia Scott, Taylor McCormick and Nylah Lee — taking turns guarding the University of Delaware recruit forced her into converting only five of her 18 shots from the floor.
“Their box-and-one, we weren’t quite as efficient as we might have been (against it),” Mohler continued. “Our half-court set kind of bugged us a little bit.”
Dickey said that she remained confident until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“Yes, I couldn’t lose that confidence because the team needs that confidence,” she said. “So we wanted to fight to the end, and that’s what we did.”
It was a disappointing end to arguably the greatest run in program’s history. Last season, Catonsville won its first state basketball title, the first championship by any Comet varsity team since 1996.
“I’m just sorry that it’s the end of an era for three of these young ladies (Dickey, Barrett and Staisha Daniels),” said Mohler, who won his 500th game (last week in North Region semifinal) during the Comet’s run back to SECU Arena. “I think we were 92 or 93 and 14 over (the last) four years. I can’t say enough about their heart, their effort and their being great people.”
CLASS 4A STATE GIRLS BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP