Smith’s Cavaliers had struggled for nearly three quarters of the Maryland 2A championship game against Middletown on Saturday, and Smith’s four-point spurt in the waning seconds of the third finally gave them some control.
Smith scored 11 of her team-high 18 points in the second half, and Calvert overcame an early 11-point deficit to beat Middletown, 45-39, at University of Maryland Baltimore County’s RAC Arena, clinching its third consecutive Maryland 2A title.
“The energy of our whole team picked up,” Smith said. “Nobody was [sluggish] or anything but the entire team picked up and it was like ‘now is our time to start playing ball.’ ”
The No. 7 Cavaliers (25-2) are the eighth team in state history to win three straight championships, and the first to win three consecutive 2A titles since Mount Hebron from 1986 to 1988.
This team lost three starters from last year’s roster, had a first-year head coach, and played without a home gym all season as the school was renovated.
“The first two years we had the same players,” senior guard Jasmine Weems said. “This time it’s a big change. New coach, new gym, everything different. It’s all pretty good.”
Calvert — heavily favored against a Middletown team that was the No. 8 seed in the West region — looked out of sorts early as the Knights (20-8) built a 13-2 lead late in the first quarter.
Calvert’s 6-foot-2 center Daijha Thomas picked up two early fouls and was held scoreless in the first half, and Middletown maintained a five-point lead at halftime.
“Coming into the game we weren’t really expecting to actually have a lead like that,” Middletown senior guard Caitlin McLister said. “Once we did have that lead, I think we kind of took it like ‘Oh, we can play with them.’ ”
Even after Calvert settled in and Smith’s consecutive layups keyed a 9-0 run that stretched early into the fourth quarter, Middletown senior forward Brittney George (game-high 22 points) scored seven consecutive points to tie the game at 39-39 with 3 minutes 11 seconds to play.
Weems (nine points) made a tough layup to give Calvert the lead for good with 2:11 to play, then Smith scored a contested jumper and Weems made two free throws to ice the win in the final seconds.
“This was definitely the toughest [championship] game,” Weems said. “It feels great to go out with a bang, on top.”
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Playoff brackets: Maryland girls, boys state tournaments