- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Different head coach, different players, different system but same result for the Calvert girls basketball team.
The Cavaliers advanced to their third straight Class 2A state appearance after an 86-62 win over Gwynn Park of Prince George’s County on Friday night at Huntingtown High School.
Because of construction at its gymnasium, Calvert played all of its home playoff games at Huntingtown.
The two-time defending state champion Cavaliers (23-2 overall) will face Patterson Mill of Harford County, the 2A East Region champion, in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday at the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s RAC Arena in Baltimore.
“Man, it feels awesome, but we’re not content with just winning a regional title or a regional win,” Calvert first-year head coach Tim Contee said. “We want to keep going.”
The other semifinals will pit North representative Randallstown of Baltimore County against Middletown of Frederick County, which claimed the West. The two state semifinal winners will play for the state championship at 1 p.m. Saturday at UMBC.
“I feel great,” said Calvert’s Jasmine Weems, who finished with 14 points. Weems was one of four Cavaliers to reach double digits in scoring. “It’s different [this year] because it’s not the same people and the coach is different, but it still feels the same. It feels great; I love it. Everybody’s just going crazy in the locker room, just screaming and yelling and cheering, so it’s great.”
The second-seeded Yellow Jackets (21-4) know the Cavaliers well; this was the fourth straight playoff match-up between the two. The Cavaliers won 72-62 in 2010-11 and added a 72-52 decision last season, both were semifinal games. In 2009-10, Gwynn Park eliminated Calvert, 59-47, in the regional final.
“Wow, Calvert played a whale of a game,” Gwynn Park head coach Michael Strother said. “They played extremely well. They shot the ball well; every chance we had an opportunity to make a run, they answered with a key basket. Alexis (standout Smith), really the whole team, shot well today. It wasn’t one individual person. They deserve it; it’s their third straight year, but we’ll be back.”
Calvert led 30-28 at halftime and all but put the game away thanks to a 16-4 quarter-opening run highlighted by 11 points by Daijah Thomas, all of them in the paint.
“I would say Daijah [was the turning point],” said Smith, who, along with Thomas, scored a team-high 21 points. “She was like our high horse right there because they had nobody their size so that was a mismatch right there. So we just stood back and let her work.”
Weems said the 6-foot-2 junior basically took over the game at that point.
“We knew we had to get the ball to her so that we could get some inside presence and, if she couldn’t [score], we would kick the ball back out to get some shots,” she said, “but she was doing good and getting some baskets. And she was getting us some fouls, so it worked out pretty good for us.”
Conversely, Gwynn Park was without its big player — 6-foot-1 sophomore center Tyler Gibbs — who suffered a right ankle injury at home before the game.
“Our point of emphasis the second half was get the ball inside, get the ball inside,” Contee said.
Contee, a former Cavalier sharpshooter himself, also didn’t want the Yellow Jackets to get hot from three-point range like they did in the first half when they nailed three from long range.
“We settled in and then we made an adjustment in the second half to not give up the three-point shot,” he said, “and keep them in front of us and then force them to take tough shots from either side.”
Any attempts Gwynn Park might have had of rallying were quashed in large part by Calvert’s red-hot shooting. The Cavaliers went 18 of 31 (58 percent) from the field in the second half and 29 of 52 for the game (56 percent).
Gwynn Park was 18 of 66 (27 percent) from the field and hit just 1 of 10 to start the second half. It took the early lead until Calvert moved ahead 13-11 late in the opening period and trailed by just two at halftime.
“No, we wanted to be up [at the half],” said Gwynn Park senior guard Genesis Lucas, who scored a team-high 18 points. “The first half we played hard, but we had to come out the second half and play harder, and we didn’t do it. They killed us in the paint, and they shot really good. Just an off day.”
Calvert took a 56-45 lead into the final period and sealed the game by hitting 14 of 18 from the free throw line over the final eight minutes.
The Cavaliers were 25 of 33 from the free-throw line, 76 percent, including 14 of 18 (78 percent) in the final quarter.
Gwynn Park grabbed the early lead on a trey by Takayla Ellis in the first minute and led 11-7 when Contee called time-out with just more than three minutes left in the opening quarter.
“We had to box out, man, and our defense had to start reaching,” Smith said. “Myself included, I had to start reaching.”
The speech worked, as Calvert promptly went on an 8-0 run to close out the period.
“It was just a possession where I told my seniors that every play matters so you can’t all stand and watch that ball,” Contee said. “[I told them,] ‘You don’t want it bad enough’ so I guess [the speech] worked.”
Weems said the speech was just what the Cavaliers needed.
“After that time-out, we came out and calmed down and picked it up, and we were good,” she said. “The longest game I ever played, but it felt so good to come back.”
The Yellow Jackets scored seven of the last 11 points of the second quarter to pull to within a pair by the half, but Thomas slammed the door in the third.
“It’s upsetting, especially knowing the talent we have, but once again, it just wasn’t our day,” Strother said.
It was the second straight game Calvert had come from behind to win after its semifinal win over Oakland Mills last Wednesday.
“I think it can be [a bad formula], but I think when we’re down, it pushes us more,” Smith said. “When we were down our horses kicked in, and we had an adrenaline rush and we just started cruising on. Nope [winning regionals] never gets old. Never. Never.”