As the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Maryland 2A South final began, three-time defending region and state champion Calvert’s run of dominance looked to be sputtering to an end. Down late and fumbling for field goals, the Cavaliers seemed doomed by Largo’s smothering defense in the Lions’ stifling gym, incomparable to the arenas in which Calvert seasons were accustomed to meeting their championship ends.
About that time, Calvert Coach Tim Contee leaned over to guard Endia Butler.
“Let’s win this game,” he told Butler, an unlikely candidate to spark a rally, given that she’d been sick yesterday and sipped chicken broth at Saturday morning’s shootaround. Butler nodded her head.
Minutes later, a Largo mental lapse left Butler alone behind the three-point line. She scored, and Calvert had its first lead in three quarters. Fifteen seconds and a steal later, Butler struck again. Calvert was up three. The Cavaliers didn’t trail again, lifted to a 59-52 victory by 18 combined points in the final four minutes from Butler and senior Daijha Thomas, whose quest for a career of state title wins continues into Wednesday’s state semifinals.
Butler “was battling a stomach virus,” said Contee, who added his team hadn’t had many calls quite as close as Saturday’s in the midst of this recent run. “That’s just so amazing. I’m so proud of her.”
That Calvert (21-4) stayed within striking distance was thanks to leading scorer Thomas, who anchored the entire offensive attack in the first half. Largo’s guards flummoxed the Cavaliers early, forcing turnover after turnover to build the Lions’ lead to 10 in the second half. But aggressive pressure up top shifted the Largo defense outward, leaving space for Thomas inside. Thomas used the space to find her way to the free throw line and score key points in the lane.
“We knew our mismatches,” said Thomas, who finished with 26 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. “We knew they were aggressive, so we knew we’d have to go around them. We read what they did, read how they played, and kept our heads.”
Until the court tilted Calvert’s way in the fourth, it was Largo’s standout scorer, junior Alexys Long, who appeared ready to be the hero for the Lions (18-8). Long poured in 21 points despite being hassled by multiple defenders and willed her team to within minutes of rewriting the 2A South script.
But “Calvert” and “2A South champions” have become synonymous over the past three seasons, and in Butler’s three-pointers and the run that followed, the Cavaliers found the magic they needed to survive and advance to face Dunbar in the 2A semifinals.
“We weren’t going home,” Thomas said. “We’re not putting our jerseys away until we win our fourth run.”