With his youngest roster in a decade, Catonsville High girls’ basketball coach Mike Mohler knows every game brings it share of ups and downs. But the defending Baltimore County champions are finding ways to win.
The No. 12 Comets held off Milford Mill Academy, 42-39, Wednesday evening. Freshman Taylor Barton and senior Raven Higgenson each scored 11 points to lead Catonsville. Senior forward Desiree Carr led all scorers with 13 points for Milford Mill.
The Comets (5-2 overall) led by as many as seven points in the final quarter before Milford Mill pulled to within two on a couple of occasions. Despite missing six of seven free throws in the final two minutes, Catonsville was able to extend its winning streak against Baltimore County opponents (including postseason) to 67.
“Somehow we gut them out. We have some serious growing pains,” said Mohler. “We got a freshman and two sophomores playing key roles. It’s all about executing at crunch time.”
The Comets led 32-25 after Zoey Whittington converted Maddie Hunt’s defensive rebound into a layup. Milford Mill (2-3) closed to within 34-32 on a basket by Alexis Ford, but Catonsville responded as Whittington pushed the ball upcourt and found Barton (seven rebounds) for a layup.
Whittington, a senior, is more known for her track exploits, winning the Class 3A state 400-meters last spring. Mohler said Whittington brings a host of intangibles to the hardwood.
“This is a secondary sport to her. She’s probably not the quintessential point guard, but she got to handle it for us,” said Mohler. “We’re trying to make her the John Wall of high school, blitzing the ball down the court. She brings so much toughness and that little extra quickness.”
Whittington hit converted two free throws for a 38-34 lead, and Barton hit one of two for a five-point advantage with 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in regulation. Higginson’s offensive rebound and basket made it 41-35, but missed a free throw for a three-point play, starting a stretch of six straight misses before she hit the latter of a bonus one-and-one situation with 26 seconds left.
“Life would’ve been easier if we could make foul shots,” said Mohler. “We just got to work on clock situations and advancing our basketball IQ.”
Higginson’s three-pointer with five seconds remaining in the first half gave the Comets a 21-18 advantage at half, then expanded to 25-20 in the third. The Millers pulled to within 25-24 as they worked the ball inside to Carr, but a three-pointer by sophomore Maddie Hunt and coast-to-coast drive to the basket by Whittington pushed the lead to 30-24.
Milford Mill climbed back to 34-32 before Whittington got a step on the Millers’ defense, leading to Barton’s layup. Trailing 36-34, the Millers had an opportunity to tie but Carr missed inside, and Whittington hit two free throws.
The Comets left the door open with their shaky free throwing, but Milford Mill couldn’t take advantage. Millers coach DeToiya McAliley was pleased with her team’s effort after losing twice in the inaugural Baltimore-Harford Challenge last weekend.
“There wasn’t much life last weekend but for them to step up to a challenge like Catonsville was remarkable,” said McAliley. “We were still meshing and gelling, but I think we’ll be alright in the end.”
Milford Mill will play in its holiday mixer next week at New Town. The Comets play at the Holly Hoops Mixer at McDonogh School against North Harford and Bryn Mawr School.
“We’re going to have three days off then play a game. We can’t go one day it seems without forgetting everything,” said Mohler. “I’m a little worried about our wind, but we’ll go out and see what happens.”
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