With roughly two minutes left in the first half of Friday's 3A West Region girls basketball championship game, Frederick High School's chances for repeating as state champion looked remote at best. Top-seeded Damascus was dominating every phase of the contest en route to a commanding 19-point lead.
But a 7-1 run late in the first half by the second-seeded Cadets helped stem the tide. Then some clutch shots by Lauren Tolson, the overall play of Courtney Davis and the inside muscle of Jordan Mangiafico-Chambers propelled the defending champions to a thrilling 60-59 overtime road victory and a berth in Thursday's state semifinals.
“We had to keep our heads together,” Davis said. “We're on the road, so there's a lot of adversity, so we had to get it together, played a lot of defense and came out with the win. I had to believe we could win and it happened. We did our thing and we're going to states.”
Davis scored five of the seven points in that late-first-half run, converting one steal after another to trim the Damascus lead to 33-20 by halftime. She finished with 16 points mostly on pull-up or leaning jumpers. With Tolson (28 points) being double-teamed most of the game, Davis hit the game-tying shot in transition with about 14 seconds left in regulation.
“She had a really clutch shot that really helped us at the end,” Tolson said of Davis. “Like I said, it's a team sport and [my teammates] can really step up and get it done.”
As can Tolson, Frederick County's top scorer, who shook off a four-point first half performance that saw her miss 11 shots to score 24 second-half points, including three 3-pointers. Her last 3-pointer came from just a few steps inside of halfcourt to cut the Damascus advantage to 51-49 with 51.8 seconds left.
“Tolson is the best player in Frederick for a reason, and she's as good as anybody in Montgomery County as well,” said Damascus coach Steve Pisarski. “We're up five with a minute left and she hits a shot from 30 feet. If she misses that and we get the rebound, we get fouled and the game's over. We had them on the ropes the whole night. They're the defending state champs so we knew they wouldn't quit. It's very disappointing.”
Another big reason for Frederick's turnaround was the inside play of Mangiafico-Chambers, who helped slow considerably the inside game of the taller Swarmin' Hornets through her rebounding on both ends of the floor and her defense in the lane. Her presence forced Damascus to shoot a lot of outside jumpers in the second half.
Damascus scored 25 of its 33 first-half points on layups, drives to the basket or free throws while attempting a layup or drive. That total dropped to 17 points in the second half and overtime despite an overall size advantage.
“Jordan is a great force inside,” said Frederick coach Keivette Hammond. “She has a brute body, which she can use to box out and get the rebound and secure it and that's what we did in the second half. That's what we needed. The first half, why they got up on the lead, they dominated us on the boards and we were not able to get out and fastbreak.”
While Frederick found its groove in the second half, Damascus struggled with turnovers and with its shooting from the field, leading to just 26 points after halftime. Twenty-one of those points came from sisters Kelli and Kristina Prange, who finished with 24 and 15 points, respectively.
Frederick 60, Damascus 59 (OT)
Frederick 9 11 16 15 9 — 60
Damascus 18 15 10 8 8 — 59
Frederick (20-5): Courtney Davis 16, Abigail Kaiser 2, Lauren Tolson 28, India Dotson 7, Jordan Mangiafico-Chambers 6.
Damascus (20-5): Jenna Kaufman 2, Lauren Green 3, Michelle Mahon 3, Kelli Prange 24, Kristina Prange 15, Lauren Derby 4, Becky Barrett 8.