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Calvert beats Gwynn Park to claim third straight Maryland 2A South title

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On the opening possession of the third quarter in Friday’s Maryland 2A South region girls’ basketball final against Gwynn Park, Calvert senior Alexis Smith penetrated into the lane and whipped a pass into junior Daijha Thomas’s midsection. The 6-foot-2 forward spun and scored eight seconds into the second half.

The eighth-ranked Cavaliers rarely looked inside early in the game, but once Thomas became the primary offensive option, the two-time defending state champions hit their stride in an 86-62 victory at Huntingtown that punched a ticket back to the state tournament.

Thomas scored 15 of her 21 points in the third quarter and also added nine rebounds and seven assists as the Cavaliers broke open a tight game with a 56-point second half. They will play 2A East region champ Patterson Mill on Friday at UMBC with a spot in the state final on the line.

“Losing was not in our minds,” Thomas said. “We were focused on winning, concentrating on it the whole day. At halftime, we turned it up and kept the intensity going.”

Early on, Gwynn Park, which won the Prince George’s County title last week, was able to match top-seeded Calvert shot-for-shot, tying the game at 28 late in the second quarter on a three-pointer by senior Crystal Strother.

But Thomas took over from there, scoring the last basket of the first half and then the first two after halftime to put Calvert (23-2) ahead for good. In all, the Cavaliers made their first four shots after halftime as part of an 11-0 run.

Thomas consistently made smart decisions in the post, powering to the hoop when a single defender tried to check her and finding teammates if she attracted more attention. Of the team’s 10 field goals in the third quarter, she scored six and assisted on three more.

“They had nobody her size on the court,” said Smith, who scored 14 of her 21 points in the second half. “Throw the ball in to D and let her work.”

Senior Jasmine Weems and junior Kaiyla Gross also hit double figures with 14 points apiece as the the Prince Frederick school eliminated Gwynn Park (21-4) for the third straight season.

Now Calvert heads to the state tournament for a rematch with Patterson Mill. The Cavaliers beat the Bel Air school, 42-31, in last season’s state semifinals. They have been dominant at UMBC the past two years, winning all four games by at least nine points.

“Man, it feels amazing, but we’re not content and happy with just this,” said first-year Coach Tim Contee after receiving his first region title plaque. “This is just one step, and we’ve got to keep moving. It’s back to work on Monday.”

Senior Genesis Lucas, a Coppin State recruit, paced Gwynn Park with 18 points in her final high school game.

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