Girls’ basketball: Calvert’s state title streak ends with narrow loss to Patterson Mill

Calvert guard Kayla Gross frantically dribbled past half court in the final seconds of Saturday’s Maryland 2A state championship game against Patterson Mill, her team down by three and in need of something quickly. As the clock approached two seconds, Gross could have pulled up for a desperation heave, one that somehow could go in, give the Cavaliers a chance to go to overtime and possibly win their fourth straight state title.

But as she has so many times this winter, Gross made the unselfish play. She threw the ball across the court to Endia Butler, who had a wide-open look to tie the game.

The horn sounded before Butler got the shot off, and the Cavaliers lost a defensive chess-match, 33-30.

“I was looking for Endia the whole time,” Gross said after the game as she bowed her head at the postgame news conference.

The loss ended a dominant three-year run for Calvert (21-5), which was trying to become the third team to win four consecutive state championships. And it may have been the birth of a dynasty for Patterson Mill (22-4), which started two freshmen on Saturday and played with just one senior in its six-girl rotation.

Calvert played just seven players on Saturday, and it needed contributions from every one against Patterson Mill’s crafty zone defense, which was tailored for Cavaliers star Daijha Thomas. Two defenders shadowed Thomas wherever she went, holding her to just two points and forcing Calvert to shoot just 23.9 percent from the field.

“In my mind, I was thinking if we could keep [Thomas] under 20, we’ll be all right, we’ll come out of this okay,” Huskies Coach Holly Ismail said. “We kept her to two. . . . Our double-team effort we put on her was pretty incredible.”

Despite making just four fields goals in the first half and committing 28 turnovers in the game, Calvert had its chances. Gross’s three-point play gave the Cavaliers their first lead at 21-18 with about two minutes left in the third quarter.

And Tyler Graves scored five straight points in the middle of the fourth quarter to help boost the lead to 28-22. She played with a chip on her shoulder all day, finishing with a team-high 11 points and seven rebounds.

“I think we proved a lot of people wrong by coming here for a fourth time,” Graves sad.

Patterson Mill went on a 11-3 run to close the game, highlighted by an acrobatic finish by Qalea Ismail (14 points) at the two-minute mark.

Gross’s final play came after Ismail missed a free throw with about five seconds left. The day had such a promising start for Gross, who sang the national anthem before the game, prompting the announcer to compare her to Aretha Franklin. It was the same announcer who made Gross and her teammates tear up after the game, when he introduced Patterson Mill as the “brand new” Maryland 2A state champions.

“This is only my second time being here, but playing with these girls, it’s amazing,” Gross said. “We did what we could.”

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