Catonsville fends off No. 5 Howard for return trip to 4A girls’ elite eight; Mohler reaches milestone (VIDEO HERE!)

Gabby Douglas (left) hit four 3-pointers and Jasmine Dickey had another big double-double with 25 points and 18 rebounds in No. 4 Catonsville’s girls’ victory over fifth-ranked Howard in a Class 4A North Region semifinal in Ellicott City Thursday. The defending state champ Comets play at Montgomery County’s Paint Branch in the region final Saturday afternoon at 5.

by Derek Toney

As Catonsville High girls’ basketball players, students and spectators basked in the glow of victory in a half-dimmed Howard gymnasium Thursday evening, Comets coach Mike Mohler was handed a case with a basketball marking his 500th career victory.

“Where’s my team,” Mohler said as he looked for his players, some scattered around the gym. The remaining players gathered around Mohler for pictures.

It would have been perfect if Mohler’s milestone would’ve taken place on the Catonsville’s home court, but the fourth-ranked Comets’ 56-54 victory over No. 5 Howard was just as sweet.

University of Delaware-bound forward Jasmine Dickey posted 25 points and 18 rebounds for Catonsville (21-3 overall), and Gabby Douglas added 14. Madison Burris finished with 15 points for Howard (22-2).

Trailing entering the fourth, the Comets again showed championship mettle, earning a second straight trip to the 4A elite eight. The defending state champs from Baltimore County will play at Montgomery County’s Paint Branch Saturday for the region title and a trip to the state final four at Towson University next week.

Catonsville’s championship run, which hit hyper speed after beating Howard in last year’s North final, was the crowning moment for Mohler. Thursday, he joined Lin James (North Harford), Linda Kilpatrick (Southern), Arundel’s Lee Rogers, Jerome Shelton from St. Frances Academy and River Hill’s Teresa Waters in the area girls’ 500-win club.

“I’ve never shot it, rebounded it, dribbled it, passed it, I’ve never defended it,” said Mohler, who coached at Seton Keough for one season before moving over to Catonsville. “I’ve been the beneficiary of kids and I stand on their shoulders.”

“He deserved this,” said Dickey. “He’s been working his butt off.”

Dickey continues to leave little doubt she’s the most dominant public performer in the area. The 5-foot-9 forward scored 16 of her 25 points in the second half, including the Comets’ final eight in regulation.

“Everybody came with the same intensity and mindset,” said Dickey, coming off an epic 35-point, 28-rebound performance against Western in the section semifinals Wednesday. “Our hunger and fight from start to finish won us the game.”

Douglas, a junior, came up with arguably the biggest play. With Howard leading 47-45 after three and gathering momentum, Douglas drained a 3-pointer, giving Catonsville the lead good.

It was the last of four daggers from Douglas, who kept the Comets’ offensive flowing while Dickey got off to a slow start in the first half.

“We just have a great offense and we’re really good at moving the ball,” said Douglas. “We really want to win states again and we brought a lot of intensity.”

Dickey followed Douglas’ dagger with a short jumper. She snagged a defensive rebound and hit another jumper, putting the Comets up 52-47.

With Catonsville up 54-49, Douglas missed a layup and Howard’s Taylor Addison came down with the rebound under the basket. Dickey knocked the ball away as Addison attempt to dribbled out and scored, giving the Comets a 56-49 advantage with 1:15 left in regulation.

Despite struggling offensively for most of the final period, Howard still had life after Burris’ 3-pointer from the corner with 5.5 seconds left. Dickey threw a deep inbound pass to a breaking Jameila Barrett, who was fouled on a layup attempt with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Barrett missed both free throws, and Sanchez-Henry grabbed the rebound for Howard. She got midcourt before Dickey knocked the ball away as Sanchez-Henry was ready to attempt a final shot.

“They really befuddled us in the first half. I think the whole atmosphere, pressure and intensity got to us,” said Mohler. “We got it running a little bit in the second half, then, of course, Lebron (Dickey) steps up like Lebron does and decides we’re not losing this.”

Addison finished with 14 points while Sanchez-Henry added 11 for Howard, which saw another outstanding season end at the hands of Catonsville. The Ellicott City school shared the Howard County title.

“We got out of sorts in the fourth quarter. We didn’t run our offense at all,” said Lions coach Scott Robinson. “They hit tough shots and Jasmine rose up when they needed her, but our kids played hard.”

The Comets hope to give Mohler win No. 501 and another trip to SECU Arena Saturday against Paint Branch. They’re confident, having defeated area’s Top 10 squads Howard and Western, to win Section I.

“It’s about making sure we know what we’re getting ourselves into it. I have no worries,”said Dickey. “I think our team will have the same intensity we had in the last two games.”

Class 4A North Region girls’ basketball playoffs

Section I final

No. 4 Catonsville 56, No. 5 Howard 54

Catonsville -Dickey 25, Douglas 14, Barrett 9, Daniels 3, Ferguson 3, McLean 2. Totals 22 7-15 56.d

Howard – Burris 15, Addison 14, Sanchez-Henry 11, Furr 6, Jones 3, Eich 3, Malagar 2. Totals 20 8-16 54.

Catonsville 17 15 13 11 – 56

Howard 12 18 17 7 – 54