Knights look to finish magical season with win

The Middletown High School girls basketball team has had 70 practices, 22 games, numerous hours of team bonding, and one goal-to travel 51 miles and win a 2A State Championship.

After a long, greuling year the goal is now well in reach for the Knights.

At 1 p.m. on March 9 at the Retriever Activities Center arena on the campus of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County the Knights will take on the two-time defending Maryland 2A State Champion Calvert High School girls basketball team for the most coveted prize in Maryland high school girls basketball.

The Knights are the underdogs in this game as, even though their road to the state finals was difficult enough, the Cavaliers have blown through just about everyone on their schedule.

Calvert’s domination has included a 109-24 win over Great Mills High School, a 86-39 win over Northern High, and a 90-11 win over La Plata High School.

During the season, the Cavaliers only had two losses and out of their 23 wins, 15 of them were 30-plus-point wins for the Cavaliers and none were single-digit wins.

The Cavaliers started the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the 2A South Region. They would get a bye in the first round and easily blow by No. 8 seed Marriotts Ridge High School by a score of 52-19.

Next up for Calvert was No. 12 seed Oakland Mills High School and even though Calvert struggled early, the Cavaliers would come back late and turn the game into a blowout, defeating Oakland Mills, 53-36.

Even though Calvert winning the 2A South region seemed like a foregone conclusion, there was still a game to be played and the Cavaliers were going up against No. 2 seed Gwynn Park High School.

The Cavaliers dominated the pace of play with seniors Alexis Smith and Jasmine Weems and junior Daijha Thomas scoring at will against the Gwynn Park defense, in an 86-62 win.

If the game was in the state tournament, the Cavaliers would have been one point away from setting the state tournament record set by Mt. Hebron and Arundel for most points in one game.

In the 2A State Semifinal played after Middletown’s 60-27 win over Randallstown, Calvert took on the 2A East region Champion, Patterson Mill High School.

Calvert would come out early and strike quick with Smith and Weems leading the way, giving the Cavaliers a 19-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Calvert would continue to heap on the pressure during the second quarter, going to a full-court press and forcing Patterson Mill to rush its play up the court, leading to 8 of the 16 Patterson Mill turnovers on the game occurring in the second quarter.

The Cavaliers would add to their lead with Jasmine Weems hitting two big 3-pointers at the end of the half to extend the Calvert lead to 36-16.

The Cavaliers did come out cold to start the third quarter, going into a four corners offense to try to kill the clock. This proved extremely unsuccessful for Calvert as Patterson Mill went on a 15-0 run and turned the score from a 20-point deficit to a 5-point deficit.

Calvert would come back on a 13-3 run to make the game 49-34 at the end of the third quarter and would put in their reserves for most of the fourth quarter as they cruised into the 2A State Final, defeating Patterson Mill, 61-42.

Calvert has had an unusual season for a team that is a two-time defending state champions, as their long-time head coach Frank Moore retired after last year and handed the reins to Tim Contee, a 23-year-old first-time coach who had just finished a playing career at West Virginia State University.

The Knights come into this game looking to cap the magical playoff run that they have had. The Knights went all the way through a tough 2A West Region, beating some of the top teams in the state in the process and are now 32 minutes away from winning their fifth state championship.

The Knights have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team throughout the playoffs, utterly dominating their opponents with speed and physicality in some games and seeming to be lacking chemistry in other games.

In the games against No. 8 seed Williamsport and No. 4 seed Century, the Knights have struggled to find any offensive pressure and have seemed if they could lose the game at any time.

In their games against No.1 seed Walkersville, No. 2 seed Poolesville and Randallstown, all of the players have knocked down their shots and have had strong defensive nights leading to strong transition play.

The Knights will have to play well against Calvert if they want to win as this appears to be a David vs. Goliath matchup with the Cavaliers representing the big, fat green guy in this match.

The problems with the matchup start for the Knights with the height of their centers. The Cavaliers center is Daijha Thomas, a 6’2″ center who averages 11 rebounds per game and has established her mark as one of the best centers in Maryland.

Middletown has no such height up-front with their tallest player being Middletown senior Brittney George who stands in at 5’11”.

This height mismatch will allow the Cavaliers to get the rebounds and thus convert on second-chance and third-chance points.

The Knights will also struggle with Smith,  who has elusive speed that helps her average 18 points a game and enough height to allow her to average seven rebounds a game.

Smith is a triple threat for the Cavaliers and will be attening Drexel University on a full-ride scholarship for basketball.

The Knights will need a big game from senior Caitlin McLister, who has been the fire-starter for this team, consistently averaging 15 or more points per game.