Girls’ basketball: Damascus beats Poolesville to clinch Montgomery 3A/2A

Damascus forward Kelli Prange ended her sophomore basketball season in tears after an overtime loss to Frederick in the Maryland 3A West final on her home court.

A year later, Prange’s team continues to steam forward following a similar arc, bent on re-writing the ending. The 6-foot-4 junior scored a game-high 20 points in Friday’s 58-40 home win over Poolesville, which clinched the Montgomery 3A/2A title. Unbeaten against local competition, the Swarmin’ Hornets maintain the inside track for the top seed in the region playoffs, which would again bring home-court advantage through the state tournament.

“It’s been a buildup of emotion, and I just want to leave it all on the court,” Prange said. “I’m not saying I didn’t in other years, but this is the year.”

Damascus (18-2, 12-0 Montgomery 3A/2A) entered Friday’s game in a tough spot. In the first meeting against Poolesville on Dec. 17, the Hornets turned in what Coach Steve Pisarski considers their best performance of the season on the way to an emphatic 71-37 victory.

The Falcons (15-4, 12-2) used a scrappy effort to hang around this time, but whenever the home team needed a basket to stem the tide, Damascus was able to look inside and exploit its considerable size advantage.

Damascus forward Kelli Prange rises above Rosie Barry (21) and Jocelyn Bodmer (25) of Poolesville for two of her game-high 20 points on Friday night. (Richard A. Lipski/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Prange has the skills to step to the perimeter and stretch the defense, but on Friday, she found most of her success in the paint as she was at least a seven inches taller than any Poolesville starter. The forward was especially effective during the third quarter run that all but sealed the game, scoring seven points in a 14-3 burst that stretched the lead to 23.

Senior Becky Barret, a 6-foot-1 forward, also did her part, chipping in nine points.

“It’s hard,” Poolesville Coach Fred Swick said. “Not only do they have size, but it’s quality size. Those girls can score.”

Seeking its first state tournament appearance since 2004, Damascus has been dominant this season, winning all 15 games against Montgomery County competition by at least 16 points. The Hornets — who have fallen in the playoffs to Frederick three straight years — have not dropped a Montgomery 3A/2A game in more than two years.

In his 15th year, Pisarski filled the varsity squad this season with all juniors and seniors until recently adding a few junior varsity callups. Prange said she brought up the pain of last season’s playoff loss early in the first practice of the season, and Pisarski hopes those memories continue to fuel the veteran lineup.

“They’ve experienced a lot of wins in the playoffs together and the [four] seniors have also experienced three losses. . . ,” Pisarski said. “They know what that’s like, so hopefully, we can avoid that this year.”

Senior Kelsey Carnahan scored 13 points to lead Poolesville, which remains in position to earn a top-four seed in the Maryland 2A West bracket.

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