Churchill 49, Paint Branch 48

When Churchill's Chloe Evans picked up her fourth personal foul with 12 minutes left yesterday against Paint Branch, the 6-foot junior could have changed the way she plays, substituting caution for the aggressiveness needed for a comeback.

But in the No. 6 Bulldogs' 49-48 victory over the No. 16 Panthers last night in Burtonsville, Evans found the perfect balance to spark a Churchill comeback. Evans scored five points, forced three fouls in the post and grabbed six rebounds -- including a key offensive board with 15 seconds left -- while never earning a disqualifying fifth foul.

"I just tried to play extra focused -- I kept reminding myself to settle down so that I wouldn't get my fifth foul," Evans said. "But you've still got to play hard."

Evans's tough effort symbolized a steely comeback by the visiting Bulldogs (12-2, 7-1 Montgomery 4A/3A East), who bounced back from two big second-half deficits and overcame a spectacular 30-point effort by Robin Kantin to squeeze out their ninth straight win. Churchill held Paint Branch (10-4, 7-2) scoreless for the final four minutes and snapped the Panthers' five-game winning streak.

"We had not been forced to come back against anybody all season, and I frankly didn't know if we'd be able to do it," Churchill Coach Pat Fisher said.

Led by Kantin, who scored 19 of the Panthers' 25 second-half points on her way to her season high, Paint Branch took a 38-28 lead with 2 minutes 45 seconds left in the third quarter. But Churchill scored the next 11 points and reclaimed the lead with 6:17 left in the game. Then Kantin responded by scoring all of the Panthers' points in a 10-2 run, the last a fallaway jumper from the free throw line with four minutes left for a 48-41 lead.

The Panthers would not score again. Six-foot-1 Catherine Adams put back two offensive rebounds for baskets, the latter with 90 seconds left, giving Churchill a 49-48 lead, and Evans's offensive rebound forced the Panthers to start fouling. All-Met senior guard Alis Freeman made three of her seven steals in the last four minutes, and she picked off a Paint Branch inbounds pass with two seconds left to seal the win.

It's a call for arms as Churchill's Alis Freeman battles Elise Conway, left, and Robin Kantin for control of the ball.